Parents’ call for shade at lakefront playground

The council says the new trees provide 'small pools of shade'. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Lack of shade at the new Rotorua lakefront playground has prompted one concerned parent to ask "what's the point?”

Rotorua Lakes Council says new trees will grow and already provide 'small pools of shade”.

Erin Firman visited the lakefront playground with two of her three children on Thursday morning.

She says the lack of shade in children's play areas was one of the reasons she visited early in the day, and the issue had been raised in a Rotorua mothers' group on Facebook.

She says a shade sail is needed so visitors can 'actually go out and enjoy the investments the council has made” at the lakefront.

'If you're only able to come out for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, what's the point? This is the number one playground in Rotorua. Investing in shade here would be beneficial.”

Louise Smith, also a mum, agreed, saying shade sails were a 'quick fix” while trees grew and would be worth the cost.

However, Rachel Matthews, who brought her teenage stepchildren to the lakefront on Thursday morning, says shade sails will be a 'phenomenal” cost.

'You've got to be practical. Parents need to take responsibility. It's a bit over the top. Otherwise, you'd have a canopy over the whole world.”

Acting chief executive Craig Tiriana says the council is assessing feedback on the playground and will make adjustments 'as required”.

"Shade sails were not included in the playground design as a number of large trees provide shade within the reserve.

'Newly planted trees will add to this in the future.”

Local Democracy Reporting asked for an estimate of how long it would take the new trees to grow big enough to provide shade.

Tiriana says the new trees 'already provide small pools of shade”.

He confirms any significant changes to the lakefront work programme – such as a water play area or a shade sail – would require elected members' support.

Councillors Raj Kumar, Tania Tapsell and Fisher Wang all expressed varying levels of support for increasing shade at the playground, but councillor Sandra Kai Fong was more hesitant.

Kumar, Tapsell and Wang say they have all been approached by members of the community about the issue.

Kumar says the new trees are 'not going to grow overnight”.

Tapsell says shade is probably a particularly acute issue at the moment because of the hot summer, but facilities are generally appropriate.

She also believes it will be 'extremely difficult” to put a shade sail over such a large playground.

However, Tapsell says she will look into how the council can provide better shade in seated areas.

Wang says he has already contacted council officers to discuss the issue to seek solutions.

Kai Fong says the council has consulted with many experts as well as children on the playground.

'I'm sure they would have considered shade if it was appropriate or necessary.”

She says the old Volcanic Playground didn't have shade sails, it had never been raised as an issue at other playgrounds and people enjoyed the lakes without needing shade sails in those areas.

'It's about being sensible in the sun, putting on sunblock, a hat, drinking water and sitting in the shade.”

She says if experts recommend increased efforts for shade in the area, the council will 'of course consider it”.

Cancer Society policy and advocacy national advisor Dr Rachel Nicholls says New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and just one or two bad sunburns could increase the cancer risk for melanoma in later life.

She says the impacts of sun exposure are 'cumulative” and one of the best preventions was shade.

Nicholls says there is a huge impact not just to the individual but a public cost for what is a preventable cancer.

Equity issues are also at play, she says, as not everyone can afford sunscreen and there tends to be less shade in areas with higher socio-economic deprivation.

'It's a really worthy investment and councils have that responsibility for the health and safety of their citizens.”

She says some councils have made major efforts, such as Tauranga City Council recently investing $400,000 in shade infrastructure.

Next steps for lakefront redevelopment

New toilet block by end of January

Painting of basketball court cultural design - 21 January

Installation and unveiling of cultural artworks by local artist Lyonel Grant - February

Work on a dedicated toddler play space will begin in February and is planned to be complete mid-year

Western extension of the boardwalk is under way and on track to be complete in July

The new carpark off Lake Rd is scheduled to be complete in October

Construction of the new wharewaka is scheduled to be complete in September

It is anticipated that private investment into a commercial space will begin this year.

SOURCE: Rotorua Lakes Council

Younger voices

Oliver Smith (5)

It was a little bit hot playing. It would be good if it was cold. I like shade.

Torin Firman (5)

I would like shade over the playground. My favourite part is the ginormous slide.

Joel Smith (10)

I felt like I got a little bit sunburned. We need a bit of shade. A shade sail would be good for that playground, then I could stay longer.

Tyler Rose (4)

It felt hot. I like the big tree. It's okay.


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