The shared backyard.
Hobsonville Point Play Strategy.


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.

Left Hobsonville Point’s Play Strategy was devised to create a habitat for people and wildlife, encouraging children and people of all ages to connect with nature through play. The Play Strategy incorporates the coastal walkway, Te Ara Manawa, as part of a ‘play discovery’ trail, linking play destinations and playful encounters with nature and with remnant structures.

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.

Right A ‘habitat’ model – a wooden ‘totem’ carved with apertures that birds can occupy. For children, the poles provide a chance for playful encounters with nature, and opportunities for investigation and exploration.

Left Hobsonville Point Park forms part of the inland section that completes the walkway circuit. A defining feature is Tiwatawata, a sculptural installation by John Reynolds that consists of 108 charred black poles of various diameters and differing heights set at irregular distances. The straight, dark line dissects the park. Conceptually, it is based in 19th-century illustrations of Māori demarcation poles and photos of the boundary fencing undertaken by more-recent communities.

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.

Below Tree and plant species with bird-attracting fruit and flowers were selected, to encouarge tūī, kererū and other native birds into the playground. This also helps strengthen the wider ecological corridor that runs through the park.

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.


2020 SEGD Global Design Awards—Honor Award in Placemaking & Identity Category for Habitat Markers

2018 Timber Design Awards—Finalist in Exterior Innovation and Infrastructure for Hobsonville Bridges