Whānau Ātea rethinks the playspace in 21st Century Aotearoa

Whānau Ātea

Whānau Ātea will create a destination recreation space for Māngere and the wider region of Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa where whānau and hapori whānui (community) can gather, connect, explore, learn and play together, in harmony with their natural surroundings and be encompassed by the unique history of the Te Pane a Mataoho /Te Ara Pueru | Te Ara Topuni / Māngere Maunga.

Whānau Ātea
Whānau Ātea

Whānau Ātea is one of the first projects of its kind and scale undertaken by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) which rethinks and recreates what a papa-tākaro (play-space) looks like in 21st Century Aotearoa. It will be a unique papa-tākaro fusing traditional (hupara) and contemporary play, tākaro taiao (nature play), active recreation (skatepark, basketball, kīorahi), and preserve the many cultural practices and traditions that were once prevalent on Te Pane-a-Mataoho | Te Ara Pueru | Māngere Maunga.

Whānau Ātea
Whānau Ātea

Boffa Miskell previously worked with the authority preparing the Integrated Management Plans and Strategies. TMA envisioned that a māra hupara (traditional playspace) be developed on Te Pane-a-Mataoho to enable play experiences that appeal to all ages and capabilities, retelling pūrākau (narratives) through play, to connect and restore the whenua, and to celebrate the significance of our tūpuna maunga (ancestral mountains).

Whānau Ātea

Our works included co-ordination with TMA developing the vision for the papa-tākaro, engaging with mana whenua and community to understand their aspirations, testing design, planning and consenting, investigation of sustainable materials, ongoing design development with community, mātanga (experts), kaitiaki (guardians) and ringatoi (artists) and implementing the works on site.

It will be the first papa-tākaro in Aotearoa to provide traditional hāngī pits, the first permanant and public kīorahi field in Tāmaki Makaurau with the integration of a  Kapehu Whetū (Māori Star Compass), and working with many knowledge holders and sharers to reinterpret the rich pūrākau and sense of place through different design mediums.

Whānau Ātea
Whānau Ātea

Importantly, Whānau Ātea encapsulates the concept of Te Whare Tapa Whā, which is reflected through the sequences of multifaceted spaces. There are four primary spaces which have been built around Te Ara Hīkoi enabling play and learning opportunities for our social, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing:

  • Tākaro-a-Tāne reflects play amongst the ngāhere (forest) integrating hupara and contemporary play elements through climbing, swinging, jumping, balancing and spinning within the realm of Tāne;
  • Tākaro-a-Mataoho reflects the volcanic craters of the maunga utilising kōhatu for accelerated and dynamic play, enhancing existing amenities (skatepark and basketball) and offering connections to the wider cultural landscape connecting with maunga and moana;
  • Tākaro-Pā-Tūwatawata reflects the remnant pā beneath the gallery forest, reimagining the slopes of the pā through play;
  • Whānau Ātea is the central heart; a multi-use space for kīorahi, kapehu whetū, tōka-rona (tug-o-war), public amenities (hāngī, wharepaku and communal picnic tables and seating), connections to land, sea and skies, and providing a space to come together to connect with the maunga.

Whānau Ātea has been an exciting, explorative and collaborative approach to the way we think and design with landscapes in Aotearoa, reinterpreting our indigenous spaces. It is a destination play and recreation space which encourages whānau and hapori whānui (community) in all facets to gather, connect, explore, learn and play together in harmony with our natural surroundings.

Whānau Ātea

Our role

Engagement & Consultation, Landscape Design (concept, developed, detailed), Project Management, Cultural Advisory, Planning, Drone Surveying

Client Tūpuna Maunga Authority o Tāmaki Makaurau
Designer: Boffa Miskell

Project team Janine Bell
Aynsley Cisaria
William Hatton
Nick Pollard
Sarah Collins
John Potter
Rangitahi Kawe


Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau

Te Pane-a-Mataoho Māngere Community

HEB (Contractors)

Harko Brown (Mātanga Hupara)

Playground People



AE Tilley

EPS Fabrication Ltd

Scapespec (Organic Lock)


Tina Dyer (Park Central – Play Auditor)

Playtop NZ

The People Weaver

MAU Studios & The Roots Creative

Kīorahi Tāmaki Makaurau

Rewi Spraggon (Hāngī Master)

Images: Courtesy of Boffa Miskell

Text: Boffa Miskell

About Damian Holmes 3267 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/