Ahipara’s upgraded Korora Park now features a new made-in-France whale playground and the second of its kind in the world. Photo / Myjanne Jensen
Residents of Ahipara were excited to finally test out their new community facility this weekend, with the upgraded Korora Park officially opening on Saturday.
The new destination playground features a giant whale, flying fox, built-in mini trampolines and a number of other sensory playground equipment to appeal to children of all ages and abilities.
The $352,000 park is part of the Te Hiku Open Spaces Revitalization Project funded by Kānoa – Provincial Growth Fund, guaranteed by the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund for shovel-ready projects.
The upgraded park, located on Korora St in Ahipara, has quadrupled in size, with new equipment designed by Playco Playgrounds and based on themes representing the township, including the whales that regularly migrate to Ahipara, as well as the iconic landmark, Maunga (Mountain) Whangatauatia.
Te Rarawa kaumātua John Paitai was MC for the event, along with special guests Far North Mayor John Carter, Te Hiku Ward Councilor Felicity Foy, representatives from the Te Hiku Community Board and the project working group chair and project manager, Andrea Panther, there to open the park.
Kaumātua Eru Harawira and Matiu King were also present to bless the park ahead of the official inauguration, led by former Ahipara Sandhoppers owner Glenys Brasell.
Panther said the upgrade had been a community-wide effort and the 11 weeks to build the park had been worth the wait.
“This project has involved extensive community input and consultation from groups like Ahipara Aroha, Sport Northland, as well as members of the Ahipara community and school,” Panther said.
“I also want to thank all the mums and nannies who have been talking and planning something like this, for 40 years, I’m told!
“I want to thank everyone else who was involved in this project – without them we wouldn’t have this amazing park.”
Panther added that Ahipara local Bruce “Hooky” Tanner provided incredible service to the area and became an unofficial ranger, taking it upon himself to eat weeds, rake and vacuum the park.
Far North Mayor John Carter said the project was a great example of the community working together to get something started and said he was delighted to see the end result.
Te Hiku Ward Councilor Foy is also part of the project working group and was instrumental in leading the design concepts for the Te Hiku Open Space Revitalization Project, as well as securing funding.
She said she was thrilled the community saw the park open.
“It makes me so happy and proud and that’s the best part of what I do – seeing all the kids enjoying this facility and being all around them,” Foy said.
“It’s community run, we’ve always wanted a park and restrooms here.
“My job is to secure funds for these types of projects and make things happen for the community and our task force has some amazing movers who have helped make that happen as well.”
After the inauguration, the tamariki (children) were invited to play on the playground equipment, with councilor Foy and project task force member Delwyn Shepherd tossing lollipops for a lollipop scramble.
Playco Playgrounds regional manager Luke Spratt said the whale was the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world, excluding Spain.
Te Hiku Community Council member and Ahipara resident Jaqi Brown said her whānau had been coming to the park for 40 years and she was delighted to see such an impressive facility right on her doorstep.
“I brought all of our kids to this park and now our mokopuna,” Brown said.
“This concept has been a long time coming and as someone looking for destination playgrounds this has got to be one of the best parks I’ve seen in New Zealand.
“I think it has the potential to put Ahipara on the map and be a tourist attraction for families who will then invest money in our local economy.”
The opening of the park comes after the opening last November of the Ahipara Pump Track on the same street.
This week, Te Rarawa alongside former local owner and owner of Good Wood Aotearoa, Glen Coulston, will launch a two-year planting program, which will see the removal of invasive plant species around Korora Park and replacing them with native species.
The Ahipara Board Riders were also present that day, organizing a sausage sizzle fundraiser to organize a trip for their young surfers, the Grommies, to attend a surfing competition in Gisborne this month.
The next park to open through the Te Hiku Open Space Revitalization Project will be in Awanui.