Mara Hupara Playground Mara Hupara Playground Mara Hupara Playground Mara Hupara Playground Mara Hupara Playground Mara Hupara Playground

Mara Hupara Playground

A first-of-its-kind playspace for Auckland, based on traditional Maori games and play artefacts

Mara Hupara playground is part of the Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek stream restoration project in Mount Roskill, Auckland.

Landscape architect Mark Lewis worked closely with our client, Auckland Council, and the project team to create a natural playspace that offers children a unique and imaginative experience, while also reinforcing the wider values of Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek project to restore the wairua of the adjacent Walmsley and Underwood Reserves.

The project began as a stormwater control program. But it soon became apparent there was an opportunity to create a park along this regionally significant watercourse that would truly enhance the area and the community.

There are several schools and early childhood centres in the area; and community surveys showed a strong desire for dedicated play areas within the reserve. Boffa Miskell initially met with local schools to identify opportunities for the schools to participate. During the course of discussion, students were invited to think about ‘nature’ and the ‘outdoors’ and how they like to play in these environments. The children’s responses to nature included the joy of climbing trees, stepping on stones in the river, adventuring, exploring, and building huts.

The design team set out to scatter play opportunities, including ‘natural play’, throughout the reserves, to discover beside the restored stream, under islands of trees. The majority of play areas would appear upon exploration – large excavated or constructed basalt rock formations, stacks of woody debris, and giant ancient swamp kauri stumps. These play areas would be connected to main paths by stepping stones, mulch paths, and boardwalks. They offer children a unique experience to engage with their restored environment, to ‘get dirty’ and enliven their imaginations.

During consultation in early 2015, Mana Whenua suggested to the project team that they consider integrating traditional Māori play items into the park; ideally, under the guidance of educator and author Harko Brown, an expert in traditional Māori games. These ngā taonga tākaro (traditional Māori artefacts) and natural play elements were constructed exclusively from recycled and found natural materials.

In Māori society, traditional games and aro-tākaro (play items) are inextricably linked and highly valued. Ngā aro-tākaro reinforce social norms and connect people to their environments. They become a means for children to engage with nature and history simultaneously through challenge and learning. Māori play elements installed in the project include:

  • A torere tree for climbing
  • A triple-posted tama-tane-wahine installation
  • Giant upturned ancient kauri log roots – te ko-uru which are linked by ko-papa;
  • Several dozen hikeikei on which to hop, jump and walk over;
  • A land-based kōkiri; and
  • A series of wera-te-paatu to practice agility, speed and balance.

The 20 thousand-year-old swamp kauri used to create Te Māra Hūpara was retrieved from another council project, while the rocks used in the design were excavated from the site during the widening of the channel.

Te Māra Hūpara was signed off by an external play specialist to ensure the safety of fall heights, accessibility and cushioned falls were compliant with standard regulations.


View the project on YouTube.

Our role

Design and construction supervision of an innovative playground based on traditional Maori Games (aro Takaro). The project is part of the wider Te Auaunga Awa/Oakley Creek restoration, which grew out of the Waterview Connection project

The facts

ClientAuckland Council
Project teamMark Lewis
Sarah Collins
Aynsley Cisaria
Worked with

Harko Brown: KaiMatariki Trust

Auckland Council – Healthy Waters


Fulton Hogan


Tina Dyer: Park Central

Kaitiaki for: Te Kawerau a Maki; Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki; Ngāti Tamaoho; Te Akitai, Waiohua – Tāmaki; Ngati Te Ata; and Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei


Project date2015 - 2019
AwardsAward of Excellence | Playgrounds - NZILA Resene Pride of Place Landscape Architecture Awards 2019
Bronze Pin | Ngā Aho Award - Best of Awards 2019 - Designer's Institute of New Zealand (DINZ)