Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Research reveals lack of fountains in lower North Island playgrounds

This playground drinking fountain in the 'greater Wellington region' was found with grass growing out of its drainage sink. Photo/Supplied
This playground drinking fountain in the 'greater Wellington region' was found with grass growing out of its drainage sink. Photo/Supplied

Drinking fountains in childrens' playgrounds in the lower North Island are either non-existent or in a desperate state of repair, researchers have found.

Out of 54 playgrounds surveyed across Wellington, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay, only a fifth - or 20 per cent - had drinking fountains.

The University of Otago, Wellington study, published on Friday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that only one of 17 council areas in the study had drinking fountains that worked in all the playgrounds sampled in their area.

Eight of the council areas had no fountains at all in any of the playgrounds sampled.

Lower Hutt appeared the worst offender in the research with none of the six playgrounds visited by researchers having any fountains, however of the nine surveyed in Wellington City Council's patch, there were only two present.

However, Kapiti District Council had two in each of its sites visited.

Three fountains that were in playgrounds had discolouration, while some did not properly collect the waste water from the drinking nozzle.

"We even found a fountain with grass growing out of the drainage sink part," says one of the study authors, Professor Nick Wilson.

It wasn't the first survey researchers had carried out. A visit to playgrounds in Auckland and Wellington last year also produced poor results.

Only 6 per cent of playgrounds visited in Wellington had drinking fountains, and they were only present in 183, or 5 per cent, of Auckland's 3695 playgrounds and parks.

"Our general impression from just background knowledge is that few areas have high levels of coverage for fountains in parks and playgrounds."

Wilson said he was disappointed again to find something so basic like a drinking fountain missing from most council-operated playgrounds.

"It's a bit disappointing that central government has not said anything to council's about its expectations for fountains and it's disappointing that local government isn't investing more.

"Some playgrounds are really full of amazing equipment, in fact Lower Hutt, it might have spent $1 million on one really amazing playground and yet they're not putting in things like drinking fountains and there's often very little shade cover over the play equipment and many of them don't have any smokefree signs. They're doing a brilliant job in some areas but missing out in some basics."

Wilson said it was even more important now with increasing inclement weather.

"With climate change and heat waves and the obesity problem, having drinking fountains really seems like such a basic thing, especially sports fields as well."

The sites which had fountains were "overall not too bad" but there were some which had "grungy discolouration" and erosion on the cheap metal parts.

NO FOUNTAINS
[playgrounds picked at random by researchers]

* Gisborne DC
* Horowhenua DC
* Lower Hutt CC
* Napier CC
* South Wairarapa DC
* Tararua DC
* Upper Hutt CC
* Wairoa DC

- NZ Herald

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