Stonefields School, in the Stonefields suburb of east Auckland, opened in February 2011 with 48 children. Currently there are 305 learners in years 1 to 8 on the roll.
On March 10 this year, following an intensive, two-year fundraising programme, the school opened its new senior playground.
Board of trustees foundation member, Diane Harrison, says when the school was being planned by the Ministry of Education there was no funding allocation for playgrounds, as it was a high-decile school.
“The architect’s plans included space for two playgrounds and we started by fundraising for the first playground for the juniors, which cost $50,000 plus $25,000 for shade. As the school mushroomed, the junior playground became too small for the senior kids, so we embarked on the fundraising for the senior playground.
“We were fundraising for two years. Everything we’ve been doing – raffles, school fairs, galas, were all for the playground and we raised $75,000. Fundraising for both playgrounds was hard for us as the school opened with only 48 children so we didn’t have a big pool of resources to draw from. Raising this money has taken a lot of hard work and determination and hundreds of volunteer hours.”
A further $25,000 came from three separate community grants, two of $10,000 and one of $5,000, and the school board contributed $25,000 from its reserves, Mrs Harrison says. The total cost of the playground was $126,000 plus GST.
Parks Supplies won the contract for supplying and installing the playground.
“We presented a proposal for the playground that was an end-to-end solution with the design work, play equipment, rubber matting and site install services and they accepted the proposal,” managing director Adam Stride says.
Ideas for the playground also involved input from the children, though there wasn’t always agreement, Mrs Harrison says.
“Sometimes what the adults want and what the kids want is quite different. The Ministry of Education has to agree too. For example, the kids wanted a flying fox, but it didn’t fit in the space allocated, plus it was only one item and only one child can use it at a time, which wouldn’t give us maximum benefit from the money we were spending.”
She says the board selected Park Supplies, not just for their design, but also because it is a local company and they wanted to support the local economy. Once the proposal was accepted, manufacture of the playground equipment commenced in December 2013 at Park Supplies’ Penrose factory.
“This is an activity-packed design, and it’s the first of this configuration that we’ve installed,” Mr Stride says. “A lot of R&D has gone into it. The idea behind it is there’s minimal platforms and decks. They waste valuable play space, and in relation to the cost, there’s not a lot of value to the kids. Children can make their way through our full activity range, transitioning from activity to activity without touching the ground.
“The playground design at Stonefields is as big as it gets. We call it the ‘Big Kahuna’ and the whole idea is to give maximum play value. It provides for upper and lower body activity, motor skills, balance and a huge, dynamic range of agility movement for all parts of the body.”
While the equipment was being manufactured the site was prepared for the installation of the matting, which was manufactured and supplied by Auckland-based company Matta Products Ltd.
“We chose to have rubber matting for the surface as it’s far superior to bark,” Mrs Harrison says.
Play Matta’s northern regional sales manager Justin Handley says when companies manufacturing playground equipment require synthetic surfaces on which to install it, they usually come to them.
“That’s because we do what we say, we’re fully compliant with regulations, our surfacing outlasts the alternatives and we’re very responsive to any issues that arise. We have a long-term relationship with all the playground equipment manufacturers, including Park Supplies.”
Play Matta was responsible for excavating the playground site to a firm sub-base, importing and compacting a mix of Gap40 and Gap 7 base material in preparation for the installation of the matting., Mr Handley says. The base material provides a long-term level surface and improves drainage in the area.
“When we were doing the excavation we worked very closely with the school and with Park Supplies to ensure a smooth process. This included establishing access points, fencing the site and adhering to health and safety regulations at all times.”
Mr Stride says that due to Stonefields School being built on land that was previously a quarry it was quite a challenge to excavate the footing holes for the playground.
“Nevertheless, the Park Supplies installation team battled through without any delays or extra costs to the school,” he says.
The Play Matta Original tiles used for the playground surface are made from recycled PVC (electrical cable, gumboots), while the shock pads under the tiles, ensuring the required Critical Fall Height, are made from recycled truck tyres. Both tiles and pads were made in Matta’s Otaki manufacturing plant. The surface is 97 per cent recycled material and is an Environmental Choice New Zealand accredited product.
Mr Handley says the main change between the other Stonefields playground and the new one is that Matta now welds the tile surface together rather than glueing it.
“We run a pair of twisted wires between the tiles, apply a current through the wires and literally melt them together. We developed this unique technique and we’ve been using it in the United States for eight years now, one of the reasons thisd was developed was to compensate for the extremes in temperature over there, which causes excessive expansion and contraction in the tiles.
“That’s not such an issue in New Zealand, but with this technique the long-term results are better for our customers. Over time tiles shrink imperceptibly and the welding technique holds the playground together with a stronger bond. Additionally, we pin the perimeter of the top surface so the whole installation is secured in place.
“The surface is almost maintenance-free – as with everything a good clean every year keeps it looking good – and there is a six-year full warranty on both the product and the installation.”
Board member Diane Harrison says one of the notable features of the surface area is the incorporation of hexagonal shapes, which is a theme that’s reflected throughout the school.
“That was on the top of the list when we were working out the design with Park Supplies.”
Another significant aspect of the playground design is the affirmations climbing walls on which the school’s seven learner qualities are presented. These are, Be determined, Think, Question, Wonder, Reflect, Be Self Aware and Connect.
“These qualities are used throughout the school to help the children learn and get out of the ‘I’m stuck’ situations,” Mrs Harrison says. “The bright green and silver colour scheme also fits in with the school.”
Adam Stride of Park Supplies says what’s most notable to him about the Stonefields School senior playground is that it’s100 per cent New Zealand made, as Park Supplies does not import any playground equipment, providing cost-effective products, made locally using nearly all New Zealand-made materials and labour.
Mrs Harrison says the playground is proving a huge success with the children, and the teaching staff, school board and community are thrilled with the results of all the hard work.
“As we are in a new sub-division the community has really grown and pulled together to make this second playground a reality and it’s a huge asset for our local area,” she says.