Old Auckland playgrounds find new home overseas in Pacific Islands

For parents and children alike, playgrounds are a lifesaver. They are a way to get fresh air, burn energy and best of all - fun, free entertainment.

While children in New Zealand are fortunate to have access to some of the best playgrounds on offer, many in other parts of the world are not so lucky.

Now staff, students and parents from Auckland's St Kentigern College are trying to change that through service trips where they recycle old council playgrounds and send them to children in the Pacific Islands.

"The service trips were started by Saint Kentigern College teacher Richard Kirk and Reverend Reuben Hardie. The whole concept behind this it's a service trip where students come with a parent and they go over and give service," parent Stacy Colyer said.

He told Newshub groups had been helping with things like gardening and painting.

Around eight years ago, when it came time for Colyer to head over to Fiji with his daughter - he had a great idea.

Colyer is an arborist and consults to Auckland Council. He knew there were playgrounds being upgraded, old ones pulled out to make room for new ones.

He asked Auckland Council if he could take an old playground to Fiji for children to enjoy.

Auckland Council said yes and the playground was dismantled and shipped over.

"Auckland Council has been amazing with its support. They were very receptive as they're all about recycling, and reusing" Colyer told Newshub.

He said it was a very beautiful moment when the playground was set up at a school in Fiji.

"They had an opening, cut the tape, kids were in there and that was it. The squealing - you needed ear muffs," Colyer said.

All up, six playgrounds have now been sent to Fiji and Vanuatu. The playgrounds had previously been at various parks around Auckland including in Glenfield, Western Springs and Muriwai Beach.

Colyer describes some of the poverty he's witnessed overseas as "heartbreaking."

"There's shanty towns in the middle of Port Vila. One (playground) that we've most recently done in Vanuatu, it's about a 15 minute drive into the bush on a bumpy road. There's no power, there's no sewer, there's no potable water. When the playground opened, I was standing next to the lady that owns the land that's gifted it to the church. I said to her 'oh this is wonderful isn't it?' She said 'yes and there's about 10 kids here that I've never seen before.' She said they'd heard through the grapevine there was a playground here and that they will now be starting to come to school," Colyer told Newshub.

"We've given the kids a reason to come to school rather than just learn. Now they learn and play. Chalk boards are fine but play time is play time," he added.

Colyer says the truancy rate at one of the schools in Vanuatu was 70 percent but they've been told that since the playground went in, it's dropped to 40 percent.

Some of the reasons playgrounds are pulled from Auckland parks could be because of the play area being upgraded due to more children using it or if the playground has suffered damage over time.

If Stacy and the St Kentigern teams doing service didn't recycle the playgrounds, they'd end up in a landfill.

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Recently a playground at a reserve in Auckland's Avondale had to be moved to make way for a wastewater tunnel.

Instead of demolishing it, it's been sent to children at a school in Vanuatu.

The recycled playgrounds aren't just going to the Pacific Islands, some are staying closer to home.

Te Kura Akonga O Manurewa once had a small playground.

That was until they were given one that had been at St Kentigern College.

Aaron Te Moananui from the kura says the children are loving it.

"More smiles, giggling. I can see them just laughing a lot," he said.

A playground which once belonged to New Zealand's richest person - billionaire businessman Graeme Hart - is now at a school in Taneatua in the Bay of Plenty.

"So his own playground and he was generous to support us and send it down there to us. So it was a really good give-back from him," Colyer said.

"If we can bring a little bit of joy into children by putting in a playground, putting in a half basketball court - an idea which one of my partner's Gary came up with, put in gardens etc. If we can increase the usability of their site and the enjoyment of their site when they go to school, then I think we've done a good job. When you get a whole lot of people together with willingness and heading in the same direction, a lot of powerful stuff can happen," he added.