Client name: Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)

Duration: June 2014 – December 2015

Location: Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Coffey provided a comprehensive, solution driven approach to the project management of the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, an integral part of the NZ$116 million Te Papa Otakaro/Avon River Precinct project (ARP).

Multifaceted project to reinject life back into Christchurch after its series of devastating earthquakes 

The Margaret Mahy Family Playground, located on the banks of the Avon River, represents a world class family play and recreational destination, breathing new life into the city.

Named after New Zealand’s most acclaimed children’s writer, the playground was conceptualised as a high profile feature of the inner city. Located on a 1.5 hectare block between Manchester, Madras and Armagh streets alongside the Avon River, the project was about creating a world class inner city destination, attracting children and families back into the city following its series of devastating earthquakes.

Stakeholder engagement, site preparation and environmental remediation 

The project required significant site preparation, including drainage installation, utilities work and testing and remediation of contaminated soils. In-river works also aimed to improve the health and appearance of the Avon River and re-establish habitats for local animals and fish.

The playground features extensive reinforced earth structures to suspend play structures.  This includes a flying fox, embankment net and towers, precast units for three circular raised lawns, raised planter beds and concrete slabs that look like giant stepping stones, coloured concrete surfaces (and honed or exposed aggregate) and play equipment. The playground has three zones, including:

  • Splash pad area - including a water tunnel consisting of eight jets, two water cannons, four water spouts and misters, running directly off the mains water supply using a pressure reducing system. The splash pad was painted by Matapopore artist Priscilla Cowie and depicts the eels (Rama Tuna) of the Avon River. The wetlands area combines stainless steel water play features and jets amongst precast units and raised planter beds. There are four hand operated pumps, two Archimedes screws, bowls and water wheels
  • Toddler area - includes a large sandpit filled with sand from Golden Bay, a beach hut and further water play features. Adults can watch from the circular purple-heart deck
  • Spine - The standout feature of the spine zone is the large embankment net supported by two, 10-metre poles. The large stainless steel double hill slide is flanked by two tunnel slides. The spine is peppered with hand and foot holds shaped to look like frogs. Nearby is a tilted merry-go-round (which includes a hydraulic brake to limit speed), swings and see-saws.

Lighting throughout the park and on Armagh Street consists of hidden feature lighting, tree up lighting, as well as standard street lamps and spot lights. Security is a critical feature, with five CCTV cameras supplied by CTOC and connected to the police surveillance system. The park is well serviced by a fully accessible, automated amenities block and an area that can allow up to four separate concession stands.

Artistic features include the large engraved story arch that includes work from Margret Mahy, Elsie Locke and Ngāi Tahu. Further work by Ngāi Tahu/Matapopore includes the Whariki Manaaki (Weaving Intensity made up of more than 6,500 pavers) and literacy texts.

Comprehensive and solution-driven project management approach

As project managers, Coffey oversaw all elements of the development, working closely with CERA, as well as contractors City Care Ltd / JFC Ltd, utilities companies, consultants and stakeholders on what was a multifaceted project. Regular project meetings, on-site inspections and testing were undertaken to ensure adherence to quality standards, keeping the project on track. Procurement and contracting costs were carefully managed to ensure budgets were adhered to.

Coffey’s role included oversight in relation to in-river works, site preparation and environmental remediation. We also worked closely with the client’s communications and engagement team to ensure stakeholders were kept apprised of progress and there was an expectant ‘buzz’ in relation to the project – as a central feature of the ARP.