Supporting communities  |  17 Sep 2020

Some residential Christchurch streets will be temporarily closed to traffic and turned into play areas for children in a series of pop-up events funded by the Government.

Christchurch City Council has received a grant of just over $39,000 for the Play Streets initiative from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, in round two of the Innovating Streets for People Pilot Fund.

The project is being led by Sport Canterbury’s Healthy Families Ōtautahi Christchurch team, and local transport consultancy ViaStrada with support from the Council. 

The plan will see a series of 12 Play Streets events held around the city by temporarily closing one street to traffic and inviting the local community to get together so children of all ages can scoot, bike and play safely.   

Play Streets is designed to encourage kids to be active and creative while boosting social connections between neighbours, and recognising the importance of play to children’s lives and community wellbeing.

Council Urban Development and Transport Committee Chair Mike Davidson says during the Alert Level 4 lockdown earlier this year when there were fewer cars around many children were able to use their local street more, decorating pavements with chalk art, playing sport and riding their bikes.

“By introducing the Play Streets concept in Christchurch we hope to give families the opportunity to experience the streets free of traffic for a short time, and make them a lively shared space for learning and connecting,'' Councillor Davidson says.

Children will be able to walk, bike or scoot around the street and will be encouraged to bring play items out of their homes and garages to share with friends and neighbours.

Sport Canterbury's Healthy Families Ōtautahi Christchurch Play Systems Innovator Adam Gard'ner is thrilled the project is going ahead. 

"We are excited to be working alongside the Council, ViaStrada and various communities to deliver Ōtautahi Play Streets.  Providing temporary closure on some streets to allow neighbourhoods and communities to use the space to connect and play can contribute to longer term well-connected and safe individuals, whānau, neighbourhoods and communities."

ViaStrada Ltd Senior Transportation Engineer Gemma Dioni agrees. "Streets are a resource that are available to us all, and closing them for a few hours on a weekend will give the kids a chance to play freely and actively outside their front door in a safe and fun environment.  It also gives them opportunities to meet new friends on the street and create new connections with neighbours."

Each event would last for between two and four hours and the timing will be arranged with the community.

There will be temporary restrictions on vehicle movements through the street for residents, as vehicles are not permitted to travel through a road closure (except for emergency vehicles). 

This would be balanced by fun activities happening in the street with residents joining in and children having fun.

The locations for the project will be finalised over the coming weeks, and it’s planned that Play Streets will be held over the summer from December 2020 through to February 2021.