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WCC spending $3.5m to complete new playground on Frank Kitts Park – Wellington Scoop

fkp plan 2
Wellington City Councillors today decided to spend a further $3.5 million to complete work on a new playground at Frank Kitts Park. They reduced the scope of the plan, to provide “a more simple and cost effective design”.
In 2020 the council appointed a developer to build “a new destination playground” at Frank Kitts Park. But work stopped when the developer went into liquidation in May last year.
Last December the Council resolved to increase the budget for the playground to a total of $9.4 million, funded by a loan. Councillors were told: “This was in response to increased costs arising from the original contractor liquidation and general rising construction material and labour costs.”
But in May this year there was more information from council staff: “Despite continued efforts to contain cost escalation, the playground could not be delivered within the approved budget.”
By then, $3.6m had been spent on the uncompleted playground, including earthworks and below ground drainage.
Staff were asked about a “temporary playground installation,” but this was not recommended.
Staff also considered a “do minimum” option without a playground, instead making the space into a lawn, with an estimated total cost of $1.5m. But staff told councillors: “This option falls significantly short of public expectation, play and recreational benefits, and is not aligned with the amenity of the park and waterfront area.” They said this option could be delivered within 2 to 3 months. But they did not recommend it.
Instead, staff recommended a “rescoped playground” using primary play equipment from the original design already purchased, including a lighthouse slide, swing sets, fish-trap climbing net and accessible carousel. The re-scoped playground includes seating, picnic tables, shade sail, accessibility play items, and a reduced scale waka.
The budget for the “re-scoped playground” is $3.5million including a fixed price contract, contingencies and professional fees. Councillors, who voted for this plan today, were told it could be completed within 4 to 6 months.
And it's unanimous, we are go on the new design for FKP!
— Ben McNulty (@ponekeben) August 2, 2023

The agenda for today’s meeting states:
“The playground contributes to the Council’s Open Spaces Policy and the Green Network Plan. As an anchor point at the northern end of Frank Kitts Park it provides critical open space amenity to support city intensification. Increasing green space supports initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint and create a resilient city with quality environmental outcomes. Provision of quality green spaces contributes to health and wellbeing; and is a key component of creating a liveable city.”
In 2018, the Environment Court dismissed an appeal against the Frank Kitts Park redevelopment, which included the playground.
Common sense has prevailed although at a considerable cost and over a very lengthy time frame. And just to note – my kids had hours of fun in the old one. They could have just fixed the slide.
It’s concerning hearing the council are having so many issues with implementing a playground. I feel like I can’t trust them to get bigger projects right, like LGWM.
Corey. The original contractor went into liquidation. That’s not the council’s fault but it’s become their problem to deal with.
There was nothing wrong with the original playground (apart from the dangerous slide.) For some years, there were attempts to persuade the council not to replace it, to save the money, and to leave the area untouched. These attempts were unsuccessful, ending with the Environment Court decision.
This really has been a case study in bad planning, bureaucratic contract management and poor decision making.
Gerraint, the plan for the park was overblown and screamed vanity project. Fixing the slide and adding some more accessible equipment would have been fine. Instead they came up with a ‘spend money as fast as we can’ plan (similar to the town hall fix, library fix, lgwm, Cuba St playground etc etc). Yes they can’t control who goes bankrupt, although they could control their own spending in the first place.
This seems to be typical WCC. Why just remediate something when you can spend millions more by replacing it and stuffing that up.
You take an iconic and fit for purpose kids playground and you demolish and turn it into another ratepayer-funded blackhole, so calling it mismanagement is flattery.
How absolutely positively typically Wellington.
I don’t know if people who are saying “the original was fine” spent time there with small children in the year of two before it closed. I did and it was tired (not just the slides, but the matting and various other bits of equipment) and did need a refresh. Children can’t vote, but we are obliged to create spaces for them in the city and they do need maintenance and from time to time reimagining. I’m glad the rebuild of a proper playground will go ahead.
JR – Children should be playing out in nature and in unstructured environments.
Frank Kitts was fine for my little kids, no complaints, and replacing the matting doesn’t cost $9.4 million. Outraged again by the WCC’s wrong actions.
Would recommend the evidence to the Environment Court in 2017 by Waterfront Watch, Michael Gibson, the Civic Trust and others including John Hardwick Smith. I agree with Garth Menses whose children loved it….leave it alone.
Our children loved Frank Kitts Park as it was back in the day. If it was tired and needed a refresh, then this is all that should have been done. The concept was fine. I even question the allegations that the former ‘lighthouse slide’ was dangerous, since many children used it without incident. Sure, a few were injured on it, but was this proportion any greater than the casualty-rate of many other activities we all engage in, which carry a risk that we shrug off?
JR. I did spend time there with little kids and yes it could have done with a refresh but that’s all. We had fun.
I was aghast when we voted to spend an additional $6 million on 15 December 2022, taking the budget to $9.4 million spurred on by councillors who didn’t care that other playgrounds in Wellington were being built for less than 5% of this cost, with spurious reasons from one saying he enjoyed playing in this playground when he was young and wanted his son to have the same enjoyment, notably at ratepayers’ expense. Another councillor said this playground is a legacy from last triennium’s councillors, Jill Day and Fleur Fitzsimons, who allegedly told council officers that they wanted this playground at any cost. This additional $3.5 million still pushes the total cost to over $7 million which is 14 times the cost of the other playgrounds, but I’m pleased that we’ve trimmed over $2 million off the approved budget and it will finally be completed. I still find it abhorrent that the majority of councillors have this attitude of spending ratepayers’ money without any consideration to the value received and I fear that this attitude will be pervasive when we debate spending on the LTP. Personally, I would have preferred to just replace the slide, but there were drainage issues in the ground so this had to be dug up so that drainage coils could be installed and this ground work was the bulk of the $3.5 million already spent.
Well done city councillors and staff! It’s been a long wait for this welcome news. The new children’s play ground will be open 24 hours a day, every day of the year as is right for public open space.
The same must by definition apply to the rest of Frank Kitts Park with no exceptions. Other structures proposed for Frank Kitts Park would not be open 24 hours a day all year round. They would conflict with the definition of public open space so should not proceed. City councillors and staff please note.
$9.4 million for a playground … dunno whether to laugh or cry ?

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