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Source: Auckland Council

Tamariki of Cooper Crescent in Ōtara are thrilled to see the all-new Toetoeroa / Cooper Park following a major makeover, thanks to Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board turning their vision into reality.

The upgraded park was officially opened this weekend (3 July), nearly three years after the local residents rallied together asking Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board for a better playing and recreational facility to meet the needs of their growing community.

Local board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia says seeing the community’s passion for this project has been overwhelming.

“We are glad to have delivered another playground for our community.

“The board would like to commend the local community for their engagement, perseverance, and participation in the project – right from starting the petition, to community consultation into design and development.

“This is a neighbourhood park and we wanted to make sure that the kids and community had a say in the concept. This project is a result of our collaboration with the community who brought it to the local board’s attention.

“Looking at the excitement of the kids and families today, we know this space is going to be well-utilised by our community.”

For Cooper Crescent resident Lee Naniseni, it was an extraordinary occasion as she saw kids from her street jumping up and down on the slides with excitement, for which they will no longer need to go far.

Cooper Cresent residents lead Lee Naniseni

“I have grown up playing in this park like many other from my generation. It is so exciting to see this playground upgraded – a project that has been very close to our entire neighbourhood – which now our kids and families will enjoy for many years to come.

“The old playground was worn out and no longer enough for our growing families. This playground is much more inviting for the families and elderly who don’t have a car or find it challenging to travel far to access such spaces. This is a place we all can call home.”

Naniseni, who is also Cooper Crescent residents lead, was able to activate the neighbours with the support of MyStreet Movement programme that allows the local residents to build relationships with their neighbours and communities.

With nearly $600k worth of upgrade, Toetoero / Cooper park is now equipped with a bigger playground with latest fixtures, upgraded basketball and volleyball courts, new all-ages friendly fitness equipment, a mini pump track, a learn-to-ride cycleway connecting both ends of the park, seating, shade and picnic area.

For another local resident, Yvonne Matson who was part of the planning for the original playground about 40 years ago, it is a proud moment to see the kids she built the playground for, now advocating for the next generation.

“All I wanted back then was to give our kids a decent area to play at. A lot of those kids like Lee are still living in this community and it’s heart-warming to see them now doing the same for their kids and the next generation.

“The new space is a lot more vibrant and colourful, and much more accessible for people our age with new walkway through the park. The community spirit in this neighbourhood is really strong and it can be seen in the way the playground has taken shape.”

The residents of Cooper Crescent had presented a petition to the local board in 2018 requesting funding for a better playground. The need for a playground was supported by the project team upon investigating, and the upgrade was approved by Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board.

Providing better play spaces and upgrading playgrounds in the local board area is one of the priorities from Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board Plan 2020. While the financial landscape post-COVID-19 makes it challenging, Chair Autagavaia hopes for it to change.

“With Auckland Council’s ongoing review of distribution of Asset Based Services (ABS) funds to local boards, it could bring about positive changes for our local board, which is currently one of the least funded boards.

“It’s a long and complex process that would take time, but a positive outcome for us could result in more funds being available in the south and allow us to develop more interesting and community-led play spaces.”

Local kids unveiled the sign as mana whenua gifted Cooper Park its māori name ‘Toetoe-roa’

The opening marked another special occasion for the park as it received its māori name from mana whenua. Toetoe-roa / Cooper Park is the second park in the local board area to receive its māori name, following on from the board’s endorsement of the Te Kete Rukuruku programme, which provides a best practice framework for naming in partnership with mana whenua.

MIL OSI