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Rodney, Auckland 

Completion 2022 

What if we told you we knew of a playground that was inspired by Tane’s Battle of the Insects combined with TV’s Ninja Warrior? Sounds cool, eh?  Since 2022, a thrilling playground doing just that has been a fixture of Shoesmith Domain in Puhinui/Warkworth. 

Responding to changing needs 

A quickly growing number of families in the area led Auckland Council to decide a new, and larger, playground was needed. Since playgrounds should be for every kid, the design also needed to be accessible to more age groups and abilities.  

Working with the community, building a theme 

The Council worked with the local community, including mana whenua and the students of Warkworth School (which neighbours the Domain) to decide the theme and equipment choices.  

The overarching theme of the playground, created through engagement with mana whenua is Pūrākau, Tane’s Basket of Knowledge, and specifically Tane’s Battle of the Insects. Students suggested the playground be inspired by the television show “Ninja Warrior”, where contestants battle through a notorious obstacle course. 

From idea to execution  

The Battle of the Insects is seen throughout the surfacing of the new playground as users traverse the play. We’re especially thrilled with the insect designs, seen in the image below. They really bring the myth to life, and provide so much scope for a kid’s imagination and play. 

The playground’s  Ninja Warrior Course is made from a dual racer module that links into a confidence course. The circuit replicates the television show’s main objective of not falling off the equipment, and has a variety of balance, overhead and rope equipment leading into the hero Ninja Wall. Following Playco’s suggestion, a graphic of Tane  specially designed by a cultural artist is featured on the  wall. 

The intention of the design was to allow children who enjoy the competitive aspect of play to live their fantasy of competing in Ninja Warrior. For children who don’t, the equipment still offers and encourages inclusive playability.  

Naturally, the wider play space has more traditional elements such as swings, trampolines, springers, and a wheelchair accessible carousel. The equipment’s neutral tones and predominant use of timber products complements the bright colours of the wet pour.  

Spotlight on inclusivity (the Water Tower) 

The focal piece of the Ninja Warrior Course is, Playco’s Water Tower. This large perfectly round structure boasts climbing, sliding, imagination, balancing and sensory play. The main feature is a 3m tall spiral tube slide.  

The contemporary tower is packed with play experiences for all ages and abilities, with alternate methods of access from easily accessible stairs to more difficult rope climbs. Internally, the tower features several rope platforms to allow users to communicate between levels, as well as climbing nets, sensory panels and activity binoculars and telescopes. From an egress perspective, users have the option of a smaller multi-lane slide, the large tube slide or can descend down the rope climb. These features ensure that the tower has something to engage every type of user whilst encouraging re-playability.  


It was an honour and a pleasure for us here at Playco to bring this unique playground to life. If you want help building something equally special, give us a call. And make sure to visit this playground with your kids if you’re ever in Puhinui/Warkworth! 

Auckland Council, led by Landscape Architect Amy Gautier, designed the play space.  

Civil Works: Jacobson Projects.