New Avon-Ōtākaro Forest sensory nature play park

Two Christchurch businesses, that played a huge part in Christchurch’s post-earthquake regeneration, have teamed up to revitalise part of the city’s red zone.

A year ago, Hummingbird Coffee provided more than $60,000 to environmental green space experts, The Green Lab, to create a leading accessible sensory nature space in Christchurch, Te Kohanga Taiao Sensory Nature Play Park, which opened in early June.

The joint project has brought a deserted residential playground on Brooker Ave, Burwood back to life as a nature haven, designed to encourage a deeper connection with the environment and with sustainability, accessibility and biodiversity in mind.

Nestled within Avon-Ōtākaro Forest Park Trust plantings, the park encourages children to discover nature by feeling different textures of leaves and wood, smelling native plant aromas, and listening to natural sounds such as tapping on wood and rustling leaves.

“This kind of opportunity to invent play, to utilise found materials and discover interesting spaces to play are really important for our children’s sense of independence, creativity
and confidence,” says Christchurch City Council play advocate Louise Van Tongeren.

“The play spaces are deliberately set up to inspire children to head off and explore, without being overly prescriptive about what to actually do.” Children learn through all of their senses, for some that is running and climbing, and others may learn better through sensory elements.

Once a former residential area, the park is now home to multiple wētā ‘hotels’ and ‘apartments’ made at workshops held at Phillipstown Community Hub. They provide warm, dry spaces where ecologically important native wētā, bees, and wasps can keep safe from predators such as rats and birds. The park has been designed to increase and encourage greater biodiversity of the area.

A recent ‘bioblitz’ held at the site as part of the City Nature Challenge uncovered more than 100 different species of plants, insects, spiders, and fish in just a few hours. The Forest Park Trust will take on the kaitiaki role of ongoing care and maintenance of the play space.

– An Active Zone for children to balance, climb, jump and crawl in, enlivened by hand-painted murals.
– Accessibility for everyone, including wheelchairs, prams, and picnickers.
– A Sensory Rope Trail to help guide blind and low-vision visitors through the park
– An interactive Sound Garden with bamboo tubes and a large steel gong drum.


Founded in Christchurch more than 30 years ago, Hummingbird Coffee played a high-profile role in the Re:START container mall, and donated $100,000 to the Court Theatre to help maintain Christchurch city’s cultural life. Since 2005, it has paid more than $10 million in fair trade organic premiums to tens of thousands of growers and their families in 10 countries

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