Celebrating accessibility improvements to Auckland’s parks

Going for a walk in the park is something that many of us take for granted, but that’s not always easy for people with access needs. Auckland Council are working with Be. Lab to change this. This month we’re celebrating some of the fantastic projects that have been completed that Aucklanders can get out and enjoy.

The Waterview Reserve park.

Be. Lab’s Access 2020 survey showed that most New Zealanders with a disability/access need find that the most common areas of public life are not easily accessible and these include public spaces, such as parks.

The good news is that this can be improved by good design, and this is starting to happen.

Last year we wrote about Auckland Council’s commitment to improving park accessibility in Auckland. Over the past three years, Be. Lab has been involved with five out of 21 local boards and reviewed the accessibility of 40 parks. These reviews give a current state assessment of the accessibility of some of Auckland’s favourite parks.

Alongside these reviews, we have developed a Best Practice in Parks Accessibility guide which has been adopted by four local boards to inform future changes. As

Lauren Wetini, Be. Lab’s Relationship Manager, explains: “We have compiled a best practice guide which will inform local board decisions going forward, to ensure that Universal Design thinking is a key principal when renewing and creating new parks.”

A key to ensuring that these parks are welcoming to all has been involving local citizens with access needs in the review process.

Making Auckland’s parks more accessible

In 2018, we worked with three of Auckland’s local boards (Maungakiekie-Tamaki, Puketapapa, and Albert-Eden) to improve the accessibility of the parks in their area. In 2020 we started work with Whau Local Board (now completed) and Henderson-Massey Local Board (in progress).

These projects involve:

  • identifying key parks (old and new) to be reviewed
  • assessing the accessibility of the parks
  • getting feedback on the parks from groups of local people with access needs
  • providing priority recommendations for improvement
  • providing a tailored guide on Best Practice in Parks Accessibility.

Thomas Dixon, Parks & Places Specialist for Auckland Council, says: “ Be. Lab provide valuable advice as subject matter experts, and their work has been well received across numerous local board areas within Auckland.”

Some key achievements over the last three years are:

  • Accessibility maps and updated website content has been delivered in Albert Eden, Puketapapa and soon Whau local boards, generally for the larger, more significant parks.
  • Park-specific recommendations, and advice around universal design has been taken into account as projects are designed and delivered within parks. This includes toilet, playground and car park renewal projects across parks in the central isthmus.
  • Several local boards have indicated support for continued funding of outcomes identified within the park specific reports as part of the Community Facilities yearly work programme. Discussions around this budget for the next three years are ongoing as part of the Council’s Long Term Plan consultation process.

The best accessible parks in Auckland

Out of the 40 assessments we have done, these are our top three which showcase great accessibility features. They include some of Auckland’s newest playgrounds with a focus on all-abilities and have a high level of accessibility. So get out there and enjoy our accessible parks!

Waterview Reserve (Albert-Eden Local Board)

Waterview Reserve (pictured above) is an innovative playground offering colour and fun for children of all ages and abilities. Designed in consultation with local primary school students, it has a range of bespoke play equipment, including several all-inclusive options.

Some areas of the playground incorporate soft fall surfaces, providing easy access and safe play for children using mobility equipment. A unique flying saucer and sensory bridge offer an exciting play opportunity for children with a range of abilities, including those on the autism spectrum.

There are concrete, slip resistant paths throughout the site as well as ‘learn to ride’ paths, a BMX track and skate park, all of which welcome children on bikes, scooters or wheelchairs. Comfortable public seating is available, and two all-gender accessible toilets are provided with ample space for wheelchairs and strollers.

An accessible car park is available and, for those who are travelling by public transport, a sheltered bus stop with seating.

Accessibility information for Waterview Reserve.

Potters Park (Albert-Eden Local Board)

This central city park is a hub for community events and a gathering place for families to picnic, play and socialise together. It features wide green spaces, learn to cycle pathways, an interactive playground with water play and a basketball court.

The playground was upgraded in 2017 and offers a range of colour contrasted accessible play equipment with pour’n’play surfaces creating a safe and welcoming environment for all.

Male and female accessible toilet facilities are available as well as a change station for parents. There are no specific accessible car parks but roadside parking is available, and there are several bus stops nearby.

Accessibility information for Potters Park.

Royal Reserve (Henderson-Massey Local Board)

Royal Reserve in Massey is a large open space with a variety of recreational opportunities including a basketball court, fitness equipment, learn to ride paths and sports fields. The Royal Reserve path runs around the outside of the park and is ideal for a short walk, cycle or scooter ride. Accessible toilets and accessible parking are available.

The park includes a new all-abilities playground featuring a slide, towers, climbing walls and sand pits.

Accessibility information for Royal Reserve.

Access improvements for parks

Among the recommendations we make, there are some quick wins that are easy to implement and will make a big difference. These include:

  • Helping people plan their trip to a park by providing maps – both online and at the park – that highlight key accessible features, routes and facilities.
  • Providing accessible seating with back rests and arm rests, with easy access along the accessible route. This is key for a range of people: those who have limited balance and strength, pregnant women and older people.
  • Highlighting possible barriers along the accessible route with strong colour contrast, such as bollards, so they can be seen easily by people with vision impairment. It’s also important to make sure there are no chains between bollards at the entrance to the park as this can prevent access onto the main pathway.

Be. Lab can work with you provide an accessibility assessment of your parks and recreation facilities. Contact our One-Stop Shop to find out more.


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