At Hobsonville Point, the streets, social hubs and greenspaces – high quality and easily accessible public spaces – are planned as a big, shared backyard – an essential counterpoint to the suburb’s higher housing density. Opportunities for play are carefully planned as ways to provide opportunities for community members to meet face to face and to support each other in raising happy, healthy neighbourhoods.
Backyard and street play is ingrained in Kiwi culture. At the heart of Hobsonville Point is a philosophy of creating a playable public realm for all ages and abilities. The Hobsonville Point Play Strategy positions opportunities for activity within a play spectrum and focuses on the positive community and social benefits of the ‘shared yard’. Play is not just swings and slides – it is anything from ‘hanging out’ with friends or constructive and imaginative play, right through to active and intensive forms of play, like ball sports and rope courses.
At Hobsonville Point, Play starts at home, extends into the street, to school and, finally, to the neighbourhood park and the wild edges. The play experience is an interconnected trail, with community destinations along the way. Nearer home, the play opportunities are more contained and tailored towards neighbourhood barbecues and experiences for younger children, which allow caregivers time to relax, observe and socialise. Youth-oriented spaces are focused around public transport routes and destinations for hanging out within a theatre of vibrant public spaces, such as The Landing. Spaces geared toward school-aged children generally encourage independence within cycling range of home and neighbourhood centres.
The Play Strategy identifies opportunities where existing buildings can be re-purposed for ‘loose parts’ play. The Rifle Range ‘play pod’ (the name harks back to the site’s former occupation by New Zealand defence forces) is a building for storing ‘loose parts’ play items, recycled, non-descript play materials, and the bats and balls of backyard play. The ‘lounge pod’ is a place equipped with beanbags and moveable furniture; the stage is for small, programmed performances. Chichester Cottage is a shared space for backyard game such as swingball, picnics and outdoor reading, while the Engine Testing Bay is a big, messy community workshop for building, learning, reusing and sharing tools and materials, and upcycling projects.
Eventually, these will all be community-managed places – versatile destinations with multiple opportunities that, ultimately, will have more enduring value than overly prescribed and systemised equipment.
While the Play Strategy provides a tool for managing and encouraging the inclusion of unique play experiences through ongoing phases of development, much of the network is absorbed into the Hobsonville Point-Onekiritea coastal walkway, ‘Te Ara Manawa’, which forms a play discovery trail, linking spaces through the centre of the peninsula via the Catalina Spine Road play trail, the primary school edge and Hobsonville Point Park.