Ata Mitchell of Whangaruru is the project manager of the new play space and says that they had a vision for what they wanted to create for their tamariki.
Ata says, “What we wanted to achieve was a play space that reflected who we are as Ngātiwai, and specifically who we are here in Mokau.”
Ata says she approached a number of builders in Whangarei and was disheartened initially as many did not want to be involved in the project, with some stating that the travel was too far. However all that changed when she met Dean Aplin from Nature Play NZ.
Dean Aplin from Nature play says, “Ata approached me about what she wanted to create, and I was very keen to be involved as their vision matched with who we are as a company.”
Dean and his team create play spaces that utilise natural products and resources. Nature Play design and construct outdoor natural play spaces, sometimes referred to as 'natural playgrounds', or 'outdoor - living classrooms'.
Ata says, “We asked Dean and his team to create a design that was a reflection of our pepeha (who we are). The various structures and play spaces represent this.”
“We have a structure that represents our Marae, the sandpit and water feature as the moana and our link to the Ocean, the mound of earth is our Maunga Huruiki, the fire pit is who we are as the ahikā and kaitiaki of this area and the “living hut” is our iwi and it shows how we are living, growing and weaving life together.”
Ata and the team were successful in securing funding from Foundation North for this project. However the Kōhanga operates on stretched resources, so they were unable to contribute much in the way of funds themselves.
So the whānau of the area contributed by offering accommodation to the builders so they could stay on site reducing the cost of travel and the various whānau were rostered on during their stay to provide daily meals to Dean and his team.
Ata says, “It wasn’t a monetary contribution but it was more about aroha and manaakitanga, and it also enabled us to build a very close relationship with the Dean and the team from Nature Play.”
“We are so happy with what they have created. It really captures everything that we envisioned and more.”
On Thursday, 3rd November, a pōwhiri was held and the Play Space was officially blessed and opened by Kōhanga Reo Kaiako and Kaumātua Anthony and Meri Barber.
As soon the ribbon was cut, the tamariki headed straight into the sand pit and the water features, with the parents and whanau that were watching on all smiling with joy to see the immediate enjoyment the tamariki had with their new space.
Ata says, “When the tamariki come here one of the first things they learn is our pepeha of Mokau. Now when they play in this space they can learn and integrate this into what they do every day.”