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by Claire Allison

Concept plans for a new $2million inclusive destination children’s playground at Caroline Bay were revealed at an event on Monday night.

After nearly three years’ work, the CPlay committee – a group of volunteers passionate about the district and developing a first-class play space on Caroline Bay – showed plans to a group of invited guests at Movie Max Digital.

Committee spokesman Owen Jackson said the aim was to create a play space that told Timaru’s unique story and allowed for all children – including those with special needs – to play alongside their peers.

The playground would reflect elements of Timaru’s story – its volcanic foundations, maritime history and significance to Maori.

With $77,000 from the Timaru District Council’s stimulus fund, the committee had been able to engage Whanganui firm The Playground Centre to begin design work, including for bespoke items, a replica of Blackett’s Lighthouse and a shipwreck.

Mr Jackson said the playground would be a community asset, free for everyone to enjoy, and, like other destination playgrounds, such as the Margaret Mahy Playground in Christchurch and the steampunk playground in Oamaru, would bring economic benefits to the district.

The design included areas for younger children, and a parkour area with equipment to attract older children to the playground.

Committee member Chris Fauth said some existing items at the playground would be retained in the new design  – including the 1950s metal rocking horse, for nostalgic purposes – but most would be removed to make way for the new equipment.

If fundraising went well, the committee hoped to be in a position to open the new playground early next year.

The playground would cost $1.8million to $2million, and the committee was working on the basis of a minimum $500,000 commitment from the Timaru District Council, although it hoped public support would have the council commit to more through the long-term plan process.

Fundraising had received a boost with a $50,000 donation from the Timaru Civic Trust, and the committee was hoping for other local support, including in-kind donations from local businesses, which would have opportunities to be involved in the project with seating, shelter and shade.

Mr Jackson said that to keep the process going, the committee had to make a $400,000 payment to The Playground Centre by the end of July, and a further payment in September should see building begin towards the end of the year.

“If someone came out of the woodwork and said ‘I’m going to give you all the money,’ we could have it in by Christmas.”

The committee will take the plans to the public on Saturday at the Timaru Artisan Farmers Market in George St.