Gunnedah could create its own super-playground at Wolseley Park through a partnership with the Touched by Olivia Foundation currently assisting with 35 playgrounds around the country.
The Touched by Olivia Foundation works with councils, communities and corporations to upgrade or build “inclusive playspaces”.
The playgrounds are designed to give all children the opportunity to play side by side, regardless of their ability.
The first “Livvi’s Place” was opened at Timbrell Park, NSW in 2009.
Preliminary work has started on a $2.2 million inclusive playground at Tamworth which will be known as Tamworth Regional Playground in Bicentennial Park.
Gunnedah’s proposal is not as ambitious, with councillors advised about $400,000 would be needed for the project
“I was invited on a visit to Dubbo to look at their inclusive playground and other playgrounds,” Cr Rebecca Ryan told council.
“It is a really good option.
“Obviously, we need to look at funding options, but I believe it’s crucial that we involve community members in looking at development of that plan.”
Council was first asked to look at building an inclusive playground by Gunnedah mum Ashley Bender last year.
Mrs Bender started a petition after she discovered she was not alone in facing issues when she visited local parks with her young daughter and her son, who has autism.
She said parks in Gunnedah were not adequately fenced or safe for children, a concern that was echoed by executive officer for Touched by Olivia, Rebecca Ho.
“There has been no focus on play in Gunnedah for the past few years, and a lot of growth in terms of those age groups,” Ms Ho said.
She said there were 35 Touched by Olivia projects in the development stage at the moment, with many already established around the country.
Following the visit to Dubbo’s Victoria Park by Cr Ryan and Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler, councillors attended a workshop about possible sites and funding for the playground.
A report on the Dubbo park said it had been established in 2011 at a cost of $500,000.
“It receives a considerable amount of use, with a regular turnover of children,” the report to council said.
“In discussion with parents attending and from other observations, it is apparent that it is a destination and attraction for families on a regular basis.”
The report said the development of a major playground facility of regional standard was a key component of the 2010 Gunnedah Open Space Strategy, with Wolseley Park proposed as the site.
Council has rejected the possibility of relocating the tennis courts, and will instead look at the Conadilly and Bloomfield street frontages.
“Currently, there is no allocation within council’s long-term financial plan for provision of a major new playground facility,” the report to council said.
“There is an annual allocation for renewal of existing playgrounds generally of the order of $35,000 based on a replacement program.
“The cost of the type of equipment associated with these inclusive playground is considerable.”
Councillors were advised that while grant funding could be available, council was already considering accessing the same grant funding for other projects.
“Clearly should a major playground facility be considered for Wolseley Park, any other development options for the park or implications such as the possible adjustments to Chandos Street traffic flows need to be considered,” the report said.
Cr Ryan moved a motion that council form a working group with members of the community and representatives of Touched by Olivia to provide input and feedback on the establishment of an inclusive playground and look at the location ahead of the 2015-16 budget.
Cr Ryan said if the community was involved in the project it added to people’s sense of ownership and made it more likely people would take care of the park.
Council voted in favour of establishing the working group.