Taranaki’s distinctive sealife will soon be living on shore at Destination Play at Kāwaroa as volcanic river boulders are sculpted into kina, starfish, kororā (little blue penguin), pufferfish, a hermit crab, kekeno (fur seal), octopus and other marine elements.

Destination Play at Kāwaroa, which is being led by the Taranaki Foundation in conjunction with Ngāti Te Whiti, NPDC (New Plymouth District Council) and NP Partners, will come to life.

Taranaki Foundation Chair Bryce Barnett, centre. Partners, from left, New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom, NPDC planning and design lead Renee Davis, Ngāti te Whiti hapu chair Julie Healey, Jen Blyde of New Zealand Community Trust, Toi Foundation chief executive Maria Ramsay, Taranaki Foundation chief executive Josh Hickford, NP Partners lead John Leuthart, and Taranaki Foundation community engagement manager Theresa Cayley. (Andy Macdonald/STUFF)

One of the design inspirations for Destination Play was the carved stone sculpture of a seal chasing a kahawai by Silvio Apponyi. This sculpture, created during the 2020 Te Kupenga International Stone Sculpture Symposium, reflects the concept of play and celebrates the rock pools and marine environment at Kāwaroa, one of the main narratives that tangata whenua of the area, Ngāti Te Whiti are sharing as a design theme for the playspace.

Seven Te Kupenga artists are creating more than 10 stone sculptures that will be part of Destination Play’s reef life narrative in the sensory stimulation zone.

Mike Griffin is carving three kina shells, with two already completed. These will create “three interesting and tactile forms for Destination Play.”

“This is such a cool project to be involved in, contributing something special to our local community. It is satisfying to work with other stone carvers from Te Kupenga and have the opportunity for our work to be enjoyed in a public space,” said Mike.

Artist Renate Verbrugge has been busy creating pufferfish for the project and explained, “I wanted it to kind of be like a toy, so kids can see what it is and its features and really just be fun – that’s what I really want.”

Taranaki Foundation chair Bryce Barnett said, “Progress is happening at pace behind the scenes to transform Kāwaroa Park into a much-needed community space devoted to providing a fun, exciting, accessible, and family-friendly space for all ages.”

“Many people can’t access the rocky foreshore and reef. This is about bringing the reef up into the play space in a creative, sensory and enjoyable way to show the rich sealife in a unique way.”

Bryce says that construction of Destination Play “will start in spring 2023 and will be built in stages. This is partly because of the ongoing fundraising effort, and also because of the complexity and scale of the project.”

“In the current economic climate fundraising has been challenging. We are delighted to have had overwhelmingly positive community engagement, from families sending in drawings and designs they would like to see featured, to donations made directly to us ranging from $20 up to $150,000. Every little helps and it’s been tremendously uplifting to see people offer what they can,” he said.

Stage One construction will commence in Spring 2023, with the scope of this stage limited to the funding secured so far.

  • Find out more and contribute to Destination Play here
  • Read the front-page Taranaki Daily News project update here