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Te Papa Tākaro o Tongaparaoa - Ila Park

Te Papa Tākaro o Tongaparaoa - Ila Park in Ohauiti was once a thriving wetland and important breeding ground for many bird and fish species.

Ila Park

Today, it has been developed into a modern playground which also reflects the area’s unique cultural heritage. The park was established in the 1990s and originally named after Mrs Ila Harris (1922-2019) who lived and worked in the community.

A collaboration with local hapū Ngāi Te Ahi, Ngāti Hē and Ngāti Ruahine, who worked with Council on cultural design features, and members of the local community, who had their say on which playground features to include, resulted in an upgrade and dual naming of the park in 2023.

Check out the video below of the pōhiri and celebration held to celebrate the re-opening of the park.

Features of the park

  • Double flying fox
  • 3x3 basketball court
  • Tube slide wrapped in tuna (eel) design
  • Swing set wth images of matuku (bittern) perched on top of the frame
  • Play area for young children with smaller swings, slide, tunnel, and see-saw
  • Timber climbing frame
  • A 2m-long custom-made hinaki (eel trap) covered in rope and colourful perspex fish
  • Playground safety surface featuring the scales of inanga (small fish)
  • Learn-to-ride cycle path
  • Concrete path linking to cycleway adjacent to State Highway 29A
  • Shade sails
  • Toilet block wrapped in images of the neighbouring wetland
  • Bike racks
  • Barbecue
Ila Park flying fox
Ila Park - swing

Cultural heritage of the park

This area was once a thriving wetland sustaining the whānau o Ngāi Te Ahi, Ngāti Hē and Ngāti Ruahine. Following the New Zealand Wars, the land was taken under raupatu (confiscation). It was returned but divided into shares which made it possible for the land to be sold by some owners, despite opposition from others. The wetlands were subject to drainage projects and portions were taken for the highway (SH29) in 1967 and construction of the Maungatapu Underpass which opened on 22 June 2018.

Te Papa Tākaro o Tongaparaoa | Ila Park today includes ownership by Capt. George Morris and Sidney Oswald Guiness of Guinness Brothers. The eastern portion of the park was purchased in 1967 by Russell Benneth Harris for grazing his horses, and this period of ownership is where the names Ila Park and Harrisfield Drive originate.

The Tongaparaoa wetland is sustained by the Waimapu Stream. Known as the ‘tears of Mauao,’ the stream flows down from the hills, into the Waimapu Estuary and then into Te Awanui, the Tauranga harbour. The toka (boulders) placed at the entrance to the park represent where Mauao once stood before his long journey to the harbour gouged out the channel known today as the Waimapu Stream. The toka acknowledges mana whenua and serves to reconnect people to this whenua (land), awa (stream) and the surrounding moana (ocean).

Mana whenua have nominated the species matuku and tuna as kaitiaki (guardians) to guide the restoration of the Tongaparaoa wetland. This has included revegetation using plants from Te Akakura Native Nursery on Matakana Island in order to preserve the whakapapa of local species, removal of invasive species and non-native plantings and predator control.

The restoration of the Tongaparaoa wetland from 2019-2024 will see the area once again thrive with native flora and fauna, so our current and future generations can learn to connect with and care for this important habitat.

Community feedback on the park

“Kids love flying fox. Māori designs beautiful.”

“Really well laid out with lots of shady spots.”

“Kapai! Well done, it looks amazing!”

“It’s really fun and it is a really cool park.”

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