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Thames’ destination playground is now open. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Thames’ upgraded Porritt Park playground ready for play

Thames’ new destination playground in Porritt Park opened to much fanfare on May 31, with a crowd of benefactors, dignitaries and eager schoolchildren present for the occasion. 

The $1.5 million playground was officially opened at 10am by Thames Coromandel Mayor Len Salt and four Thames children chosen from a group of colouring competition winners. After the ribbon cutting, seven-year-old Anika Irvine from Pārāwai School was given the honour of having the first play on the new equipment. 

The opening was the culmination of several years’ work, after the majority of the budget was gifted to Thames by philanthropist couple Jackie and Chris Reeve for the express purpose of a free, accessible play space. 

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Jackie told The Profile she and Chris wanted something that was open to everyone. 

“We build playgrounds that have no age limit,” she said. 

“It’s one of the main things for us because there’s so many parents and grandparents who should be allowed to play with their children. And carers should be allowed to play, but also, especially, there’s a lot of communities which have adults that have a younger mind, and they should be allowed to play. It’s heartbreaking when you go to a playground that says 12 and under… For us, it’s one of the stipulations that says no age limit.”

Porritt Park is not the first playground the couple have gifted – there is a similar destination playground in Takapuna, Auckland – and Jackie said their philanthropy stemmed from a love of play. 

“Play is really important to me,” she said. 

“Before I met Chris, I was a solo mum, just trying to make ends meet, really. I used to pack a picnic lunch three times a week, and we’d go to a park and play. And then it ended up with a whole lot of other families that knew our kids, and they would join us. It was just so cool because it was free, and it was fun.”

TCDC Mayor Len Salt, local children, and benefactor Jackie Reeve cut the ribbon to officially open the playground. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Construction at Porritt Park began in early February this year. The upgraded playground features new play equipment such as a climbing tower lighthouse and ‘Wakatere’ boat, based on the local history of the area. It includes wheelchair-accessible equipment, and some of the  original play pieces have been retained. Extra seating, a barbeque area and a basketball court have also been included, with the aim of making the space a gathering place for the whole community. 

Laughter and shouting quickly filled the air at the opening as the invited children gave the new equipment a once-over, and Mayor Salt commented that the day was all about the kids. 

“The best thankyou we can have is watching the children enjoy this facility,” he said. 

Other significant contributors to the project were A & G Price, Claymark, Playco, Toyota NZ and Trust Waikato, who each made donations in excess of $50,000. Ngāti Maru, the Thames Business Association and the Thames Community Board supported the build with tikanga, fundraising and community engagement. 


Thames Business Association CEO Sue Lewis-O’Halloran said there was still work to be done, with a shortfall of around $250,000 needed to complete the planned Changing Places accessible toilet facility. 

“We desperately need to build the Changing Places toilet facility, [and] we’re still raising money for the playground – we’ve gone ahead and done things even though we haven’t had the money because we wanted it to open today,” she said. 

“It’s a community project. A gift for the people of Thames from these amazing people. They did this because they love the kids, they’re incredibly special people.”

The playground opened to the public at 3pm, just in time for the long weekend. 

Thames’ destination playground is now open. Photo: SUPPLIED/TCDC