The Ngāti Apa story of Tutaeporoporo te Taniwha inspired this community-funded destination playspace.

Te Āhuru Mōwai Playground replaces a small outdated, playground built in 1951. Marton Development Group (MDG), the not-for-profit group who initiated the project, and Rangitikei District Council requested a design concept that would be unique, special and distinctly ‘Marton’.

Local mana whenua Te Rūnango o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa were engaged in the project to co-design and incorporate a Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa cultural narrative and iwi presence, including the legend of Tutaeporoporo through visual presence, art and play elements.

Worked with

Playground Centre
Playtop NZ
Philippa Bollond, playground auditor
WT Partnership

Project date

2021 - 2021


Award of Excellence | Education and Play | NZILA Resene Pride of Place Landscape Architecture Awards
Outstanding Planning Achievement | Planning for Conservation of the Built and Natural Environment and Cultural Heritage
Category Finalist for Te Karanga o te Tui

Collaboration between Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa artists and Boffa Miskell to embed the pūrakau / local narrative of Tutaeporoporo Te Taniwha into the playground required innovative design thinking. An initial large-scale design was broken down into a series of repeated motifs that reflected different elements of the narrative in different portions of the site.

More challenging was taking 2D designs and wrapping them around 3D topography in the playground, which was a first to trial with this surfacing. A combination of plywood forms and flexible piping was used to lay out the design and achieve the flowing curves of the original artwork.

Boffa Miskell had developed a bespoke tower and activity trail with for award-winning Anderson Park, so relished the opportunity to push the design further and create something ‘wow’ with a trio of timber towers.

Playground auditors came on board early in the concept design phase to help keep cognizance of compliance standards and regulations as we developed the rope ‘Bird Nest walk’ that would ultimately link the two larger towers.

An extra-long bank of swings was designed to draw attention away from the timber fence. With six double bays, this is the longest and most diverse set of swings in New Zealand.

With the constraints of COVID-19-induced freight havoc, lots of ‘can we build this here’ solutions were found. The rocking animals, so beloved by toddlers, are usually imported from Germany. Sheep and cow rockers have instead been carved and painted by Whanganui locals to represent familiar animals from the local farming area.

A key tenet was ‘Keep it Local’. MDG wanted the economic and social benefits of the project staying in the community. We worked with local suppliers and contractors; local artists and craftspeople; and used local materials to bring the playground to life.