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Kids' dream comes true

Manukau Courier, 4 Feb 2010

The kids of Sandbrook Ave in Otara have had their biggest wish come true.

After five years, they’ve got their playground back.

The playground was removed after repeated vandalism and the only place left for the kids to play was next to the busy road.

Last year they went to the Otara Community Board and made a pledge with their hands on their heart: "Build us a playground and we’ll protect it from graffiti, vandalism and rubbish."

Six months later their wish was granted. In December a colourful, top-of-the-line playground was installed.

The move shocked Sandbrook Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Ida Papuni.

"I was actually surprised that we got it. It was a lot of prayer and lobbying from the Otara Community Board," she says.

"All the Manukau City Council needed was the community to take ownership."

And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

David Tu’uta is the playground’s unofficial "head of security".

He and son Junior patrol the park every night before they go to bed, chasing away kids who shouldn’t be there.

"There is a group of boys and when they see me, they run away," Mr Tu’uta says.

Resident Tai Daniel takes her two young children to the park and helps clean up rubbish while she’s there.

In the homes surrounding the park neighbours are on playground watch 24/7 and call the police as soon as they see or hear damage being done.

"In every place there’s bad people around but the majority here are looking after it," Ms Papuni says.

"We’re not going to let the vandals get the better of it."

As well as the group of eagle-eyed neighbours, park rangers from the council will clean up the playground as part of their regular maintenance schedule.

So what do the neighbourhood kids think of their new playground?

"Choice!" they yell in unison.

The next Sandbrook Neighbourhood Support meeting will be held tonight at 6pm at Sandbrook Reserve.


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