Tuesday, 26 May 2020


New playground boat may be called “Buffalo”

As parents, one of our favourite sunny afternoon outings was grabbing a lazy coffee on The Esplanade in Whitianga while keeping an eagle eye on our young boy as he entertained himself climbing all over the playground at the water’s edge. A favourite was searching for pirates and other dangers from a vantage point on the Jolly Roger, the quirky playground boat. 

Many years later, our boy has left home, but we are still perched on a deck along The Esplanade, watching with some mixed emotions the redevelopment of the playground and the departure of the Jolly Roger. 

I am sure many parents will have nostalgia for the boat and wonder what has become of it. According to Andrew Scobie from the Thames-Coromandel District Council project team, the Jolly Roger has been dismantled in segments and is stored in case that someone wants to repurpose it. That being said, the boat has been found to be quite rotten through, so Andrew doubts there’s much more life to it.  

The Jolly Roger is being replaced by a new, much safer boat with a whole lot of more interactive play elements to it, including a telescope, steering wheel, climbing nets, a canon, a sand digger and treasure chest in the nearby sanded area.  

The boat and the rest of the new playground will be more accessible to a wide variety of users, including those with disabilities, and will be adhering to stringent safety regulations. In fact, the whole playground will be the subject of an independent safety audit before opening in early July. The new boat has been based loosely on HMS Buffalo and Andrew says that after community consultation, the structure may well take on that name officially.

The Jolly Roger was originally built by TCDC to replace another boat that had been installed at the playground in the winter of 1974 by the Lions Club of Whitianga, who, in fact, built the whole playground in 1968. The original playground, built totally from donations, was a labour of love for the Lions. They also donated other play equipment, including a couple of old tractors. The original boat was a Japanese fishing dory called “Teichi” (or “Tani I” in some records). It was also painted by the Lions when it was installed. Unfortunately, that boat lasted only a few years and was replaced by the more “recent” Jolly Roger. 

An official opening of the playground and the Whitianga town centre upgrade work that are at the moment underway at The Esplanade and Taylor’s Mistake has been scheduled for 13 July.  More details on the opening will be available soon.

Pictured is the new playground boat taking shape.


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