Hard-to-get-to playgrounds were on the mind of Dubbo Regional Council’s Ian McAlister when the Everyone Can Play in NSW roadshow pulled into the city this week.
The roadshow, led by Commissioner for Open Space and Parklands Fiona Morrison, has encouraged feedback on draft guidelines aimed at making play spaces accessible to everyone “regardless of age, background or ability”.
Representatives of councils in the region turned out to hear from the commissioner, including Mr McAlister who played a role in the development of the draft guidelines that are based on three questions—Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay?
The manager recreation and open space told of about 150 parks and 28 playgrounds in the local government area taking in Dubbo and Wellington.
“We’ve got a playground replacement program where we try to turn our playgrounds over every 15 to 18 years depending on usage,” Mr McAlister said.
“What these guidelines will enable us to do is look at it from a more holistic point of view in terms of inclusive play and make sure it’s not just about the equipment.”
Mr McAlister said “ a lot of the old playgrounds” traditionally were built in the middle of parks.
“If you are in a wheelchair or a mother pushing a pram ..you’ve got to get across a big grassed area which can be difficult,” he said.
The manager said the retrofit of a path system could be done at a “relatively low cost”, making a hard-to-get-to playground more accessible.
He said the likes of more seats and shade structures could be introduced for “not a lot of money”.
“But it makes a massive difference to people’s enjoyment of the space,” Mr McAlister said.
The draft guidelines have been developed by the Office of Open Space and Parklands, within the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, after an “extensive engagement process”.
They were prompted by NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts who in November called for playgrounds that also catered for disabled children, their parents, the elderly and carers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised $20 million across five years for playground works.
In Dubbo on Thursday, Ms Morrision told of more than 6100 playgrounds managed by local government in NSW, with about half in the metropolis and the other half in the regions.
“We have some councils that have six playgrounds and some that have 350,” she said.
“We are using this roadshow to ask all the councils that are coming along how best to use that funding.”
The draft guidelines are on public exhibition until September 21.
To provide feedback go to www.planning.nsw.gov.au/everyonecanplay.