A New Centre for Tai Tapu

A New Centre for Tai Tapu

For many families with young children, Playcentre is a much loved part of everyday life. For parents it provides a community, a support network, and a steadfast sense of belonging. For tamariki, it’s one of the few places where they can meet, play and explore freely.

So what happens when a local Playcentre is forced to shut its doors and, even for a short period, that sense of place is lost?

This is a story about Tai Tapu Playcentre: how it managed to maintain its role as a hub for families, even as earthquake damage deemed its regular site unuseable, and about the exciting new future the centre has in store.  

Tai Tapu Playcentre’s building was badly affected by the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes and, like so many local structures, was forced to soldier on despite the need for demolition. That, coupled with the site’s “drafty, damp, leaking, unhygienic, old, and rundown” facilities, as centre President, Alice Scoulding, describes them, meant that when the new building finally opened it could not come soon enough.

Tai Tapu’s original  Playcentre was formed in the 1960s and furnished the needs of the area’s young families for almost 50 years. “Our former site on the Old Tai Tapu Road was occupied by the Tai Tapu Community Hall. The Tai Tapu Playcentre occupied the ‘old supper room’, an approximately 160 square metre space attached to the rear of the hall building,” Alice says.

“Our whanau learnt so much on our Playcentre journey and our tamariki had fun along the way”, Alice says of the former building, but the opportunity to fit out a new centre has allowed a whole new stage of that journey to commence.

As part of the rebuild, Tai Tapu Playcentre has been able to retain the site of the old Tai Tapu town hall. The Playcentre then purchased an unused building from Tai Tapu School at well below market value, the funding coming from several different sources as well as from local fundraising. The building was shifted to the nearby Playcentre site at the start of this year.

Once the building was established, a custom fit out and landscaping were completed to meet the centre’s specific requirements. Project manager, and Playcentre mum, Sarah Barnsley notes the customised bathrooms, office space, and kitchen, which are certain to be useful for the centre’s adults. An open and flexible play environment with an under 2s area, a comfortable couch for feeding mums, and a verandah for use as an all-weather play space, make the new centre one to be envious of.

“It was a fast and furious project”, Alice says. “The period from initial discussion to reopening lasted only 14 months, and encompassed everything from drawing up plans, to sourcing funding and allocating roles.”

While the project was completed, members of Tai Tapu Playcentre sought help from their neighbouring centres. “We have had exclusive use of Prebbleton Playcentre on Wednesdays and have shared sessions on Monday and Tuesday at Lincoln Playcentre,” Alice says. “This has been difficult for some of our families but has also given us a great opportunity to make connections with other centres, build up a fantastic support network, and share ideas and information.” Tai Tapu has recently hosted the Prebbleton and Lincoln Playcentres at their new centre to say thank you for their generosity in such testing times.

Tai Tapu Playcentre finally reopened at the beginning of term 3. “We are all really excited to be back in our centre and are enjoying our new space,” Alice enthuses. “We are still developing the outdoor area, so that is a work in progress.” Included among the plans for the outside are a barked play space, climbing mound, exploratory path, and mud kitchen.

Alice and everyone at Tai Tapu Playcentre wish to acknowledge the kindness shown, through donations of products and services, by many local and Christchurch businesses. Thank you to everyone that contributed.

The new Tai Tapu Playcentre site promises to be a wonderful home for a centre that is nothing if not community-hearted and resilient. “We look forward to a very bright and exciting Playcentre future,” Alice beams.  

If you are also interested in visiting Tai Tapu’s new building please email them at taitapupc@gmail.com or support then with their upcoming fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/events/305468549918052/

Frances Martin

Posted: Tuesday 8 August 2017