Playing and Ecology at Mariners' Rise

By Kathleen Kinney

Ecology drove the new Mariner Rise reserve and playground project on the Whangaparoa Peninsula north of Auckland, says one of the leads in the collaboration, Boffa Miskell’s Ian Boothroyd.

“It was fundamentally about mitigating the effects of the residential development.”

Sixty townhouses sit adjacent to the reserve and part of the brief was to create a natural adventure space for children living there to explore and learn about their environment.

The project included retention of two existing streams (one permanent and one intermittent), as well as a new stream diversion within the reserve, which also functioned as a flood retention basin.  

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The retention of the streams and the diversion form part of a mitigation transaction that will result in the daylighting of a waterway at nearby Stanmore Bay. 

As part of the stream restoration lizards were surveyed and fish relocated. Wetlands were planted to bring birds into the reserve and provide habitat for insects and reptiles. Stream margin sedges, including ruatahi (Carex lessoniana) and purei (Carex secta) and wetland rushes were used along the water’s edge. Specimen trees included ti kouka (Cordyline australis), porokaiwhiri (Hedycarya arborea) and kowhai (Sophora tetraptera).

Landscape architect Mark Lewis says: “I think the result is a beautiful natural area, with a series of well-defined spaces, softened by native planting. It’s full of intrigue and opportunities for natural play.”

An island was created between the two streams, and play items were installed to draw children into the space, with different and challenging ways to reach the island itself.


The centrepiece is a timber pole swing with a 3.6m high beam. “It’s a modern version of a tyre swing,” explains play space designer Aynsley Cisaria. “In most suburban locations, you just can’t make those type of swings anymore. But the idea of a tree swing seemed so perfect for this location, and the look of this play space.

“My hope with the little bridges and balancing beams was that kids would get the chance to spot fish and eels in the revitalised stream, poke about in the reeds and rushes for other interesting critters, and just enjoy a hangout space on their doorstep that wasn’t a variation on ‘plastic fantastic’.” 

Planting List:

HANGEHANGE Geniostoma ligustrifolium
PUTAPUTAWETA Carpodetus serratus
KANUKA Kunzea robusta
KOROMIKO Hebe stricta
KAWA KAWA Piper excelsium
PATE Schefflera digitata
HARAKEKE Phormium tenax

RUATAHI Carex lessoniana
PUREI Carex secta
PUKIO Craex virgatata
TOETOE UPOKO-TANGATA Cyperus ustulatus

WIWI Juncus pallidus
SOFT TWIG RUSH Machaerina rubiginosa
HAREKEKE Phormium tenax
WHARARIKI Phormium cookianum subsp. hookeri
TOETOE Austroderia fulvida

Carex testacea
Coprosma kirkii
MIKOIKOI Libertia ixioides
PANAKENAKE Locelia angulate
POHUEHUE Muehlenbeckia axillaris
WHARARIKI Phormium cookianum var.
PINATORO Pimelea prostrata

OIOI Apodasmia similis
POHUEHUE Muehlenbeckia axillaris
WHARARIKI Phormium cookianum var.

OIOI Apodasmia similis
Coprosma kirkii
MIKOIKOI Libertia ixioides
PANAKENAKE Locelia angulate
POHUEHUE Muehlenbeckia axillaris
WHARARIKI Phormium cookianum var.
PINATORO Pimelea prostrata

TI KOUKA Cordyline autralis
KAHIKATEA Dacrycarpus dacrydiodes
POROKAIWHIRI Hedycarya arborea
KOWHAI Sophora tetraptera
PURIRI Vitex lucens


Credit List:

McConnell Property Development, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board and Panuku Development Auckland 

Boffa Miskell Project Team:
Mark Lewis – stream restoration
Ian Boothroyd – ecologist
Sarah Collins and Aynsley Cisaria – playspace design

One-point pendulum tyre swing: Playground Centre

Engineering: Woods

Construction: Gideon Contractors

Landscape Installation: GreensceneNZ

Geotechnical: ENGEO Ltd