Aorangi School

Small design items can be great in thematic playground design, such as this native bird.

Aorangi School

Small design items can be great in thematic playground design, such as this native bird.Small design items can be great in thematic playground design, such as this native bird.

A play space for Tamariki to play with culture and learn with fun.

Aorangi School
Circa budget:

A School with a Heart

Aorangi School is more than just a place for learning; it’s a community haven in Western Heights, Rotorua, dedicated to empowering its 140 students. Its mission is Empowering, Encouraging, and Engaging everyone to Personal Excellence. But for Principal Kairo McLean, one thing was missing: a culturally reflective, therapeutic, and engaging play space.

The Search for the Perfect Partner: Why Creo?

Principal McLean knew that a traditional playground would not cut it. The school wanted a play space that engaged students, reflected their cultural heritage, and supported their emotional well-being. That’s when Creo was brought into the picture to collaborate with this fantastic project.

Wet pour rubber provides safety as well as good aesthetics for your space.

The Importance of Personal Engagement

For McLean, the decision to go with a design and build firm was easy. The two-year relationship with a dedicated consultant at Creo ensured a smooth, personalised experience that allowed Aorangi School to realise their dream playground.

When asked what stood out about Creo, McLean said, “They made everything our students wanted possible.” This willingness to adapt and incorporate the school’s unique requirements sealed the deal.

"They made everything our students wanted possible."

The Transformation: When Dreams Become Reality

When the construction began, McLean knew they had made the right choice. Creo’s professionalism and easy-to-work-with nature reassured the school that their vision was becoming a reality.

The result is a playground that fits Aorangi School’s unique needs. From enabling students to regulate their emotions to imaginative play, the play space is deeply embedded in the school’s values. It even features culturally significant figures like their Kaitiaki, the Kārearea Falcon.

With its new play space, Aorangi School takes a giant leap towards holistic, quality education that doesn’t just teach but empowers. The play space is not merely a place for fun—it’s a cultural emblem, a therapeutic tool, and an embodiment of the school’s high standards for student well-being.

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Kristin School Senior

Kristin School Senior

Students play at Kristin School Senior playgroundStudents play at Kristin School Senior playground

A gathering, fun space for the children at Kristin School

Kristin School Senior
Albany, Auckland
Circa Budget:

When Opportunity Knocked

When Kristin School in Auckland had to remove a playground due to the construction of a new bus bay, they found themselves at a crossroads. Creo has worked with them previously, so we were ready to get the fun back to the school with a new playground opportunity.  “Our experience with Creo has been very positive,” said the school’s Director of Business Services, Nigel Wilkinson.


A Visionary Approach

Kristin School wanted more than just a playground; they aspired to create a unique space. “This was a new project where we wanted playground equipment as well,” Nigel pointed out. Creo didn’t disappoint. “We approached Creo, and they were able to give us some really good designs very promptly and also a virtual tour of what it would look like. All those things helped us imagine what we could do in this area,” he shared.



The Urban Landscape: A New Concept

Creo introduced the idea of an “urban landscape,” a concept that initially puzzled the school team. “We didn’t understand what benefits that might bring,” Nigel admitted. However, the results were beyond expectations. “What we’ve found now that the playground’s in place is that it’s become a social gathering space for students. It’s much more populated now than it was before.”


"We approached Creo, and they were able to give us some really good designs very promptly and also a virtual tour of what it would look like. All those things helped us imagine what we could do in this area"

A Bustling Community Space

“People gathering, talking, using the equipment periodically, and then stepping back and just joining with their friends,” Nigel described the new atmosphere. “And it’s now become one of the busiest places on the campus.” The playground isn’t just a place for play; it’s a vibrant community hub. “You just have to look at the playground at lunchtime and the use it’s getting and the fun and the excitement and the voices of the students to know it’s been a really worthwhile investment,” he concluded.

The Immediate Impact

“Since the day we opened, we’ve had staff, students and just about everybody wanting to have a go at some of the equipment in the playground,” Nigel said, capturing the essence of the playground’s appeal. “It’s safe, exciting and challenging. And those are all the sorts of things year seven and eight students want.”

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Hurunui College

Hurunui College

Cornerstone equipment, a 7.5m net tower.Cornerstone equipment, a 7.5m net tower.
Obstacles offer play value, challenge and learning.Obstacles offer play value, challenge and learning.

A playground for the school and the community.

Hurunui College
Circa budget:
A Fantastic Play Opportunity

Hurunui College in North Canterbury is a school catering to students from year 1 through to year 13. Recognising an opportunity to enhance the student experience, Principal Stephen Beck and the teachers saw an opportunity when the prefab classrooms were removed to transform the space into a vibrant playground.

Removing old prefab classrooms opened space, setting the stage for an ambitious playground project that would align with the school’s unique rural environment. The project was not just to benefit the students but the community.

Embracing Nature

Embracing the local landscape was at the core of Hurunui College’s playground vision. The school’s leadership wanted a design that resonated with the natural surroundings. Featuring timber play equipment, such as an obstacle course and natural climbing features. This aesthetic decision was intentional and grounded in the community’s connection to nature.

Cornerstone equipment, a 7.5m net tower.
Unprescribed Play – The Centerpiece

One of the main things you will notice as you walk past the playground is a 7.5m climbing net tower. A statement in the playground. Stephen and the teachers wanted to give the children some challenges. “Our kids are really active, love climbing, often climb trees, and we don’t stop too much of that,” Stephen explained.

The playground at Hurunui College has some fun and exciting features that the kids love to use. The basket swing and Viking swing are favourites, and as Principal Stephen Beck says, they ‘get a huge amount of use.’ These parts of the playground aren’t just for fun; they also help the children explore and use their imagination, making playtime more enjoyable and creative

"The thing that stood out for us with Creo was that we only had to deal with one supplier, and they managed the process from design to build to completion."

A Playground for The Community

As a small rural community, the new playground is not just for the school. Stephen believes that the space will be of great benefit to the community of Hawarden. “This will be a high-use facility so the community can enjoy this space during the weekends and holidays. A win for everyone!

The Creo Factor

Creo’s expertise in design and building was one of the factors for their choice. We aim to make a smooth and seamless project for all parties involved. Being a one-stop-shop was essential to achieve the desired outcome where Stephen, his students and the whole community could benefit from the fantastic playground they envisioned. 

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Mission Heights Primary School

Mission Heights Primary School

Playground with a boat, vegetation rubber and bark surfacePlayground with a boat, vegetation rubber and bark surface

Play Reaches New Heights at Mission Heights Primary.

Mission Heights Primary School
Circa budget:
Turning Concrete into Child’s Play

At Mission Heights Primary School, a concrete yard posed an enduring problem for teachers and children alike. According to Camelia, a new entrant teacher at the school, the previous environment was uninviting and hard on young students. “Our children were struggling to find an area to play, especially our younger children…there were a lot of bruised knees and grazes because of the concrete,” she recalls.

Mission Heights, home to approximately 700 children, recognized the crucial role of outdoor play in childhood development and took the bold step of transforming their grey, concrete landscape into a vibrant, interactive playground.

A Paradigm Shift in Playgrounds

Following a successful upgrade of their existing playground into a natural play area, the school saw an opportunity to extend their revitalization efforts to the concrete yard. This previously overlooked area became the next candidate for an exciting playground transformation. The new playground design aimed to invite exploration and physical activity, promoting healthy play habits among the children. The transformation, accomplished within a week, had an immediate and profound impact.

Play Video

Camelia enthusiastically reports on the children’s reaction: “Our youngest children really love it. They love how there are, you know, the obstacle courses and the different heights where they love to explore.”

Playground Elements that Kids Love

The new playground, designed with children’s interests in mind, features a variety of components including slides, hills to climb on, and huts for those quieter moments. “And we’ve done some writing last week, in fact, about the new playground. The children talked about, you know, how they loved to play on the slide. They loved the little hill that they can climb on, and they love the hut that they can sit in.”

Not only does the new space provide children with a safer, more enjoyable place to play, but it also serves as a springboard for classroom activities. Children’s love for the playground transcends the playtime, transforming into a source of inspiration for their academic projects.

"This is a very cool playground that our children really love exploring."

The Enduring Impact

A week after the introduction of the new playground, Camelia and her colleagues are observing that the children’s enthusiasm for their new playground shows no sign of waning. “Our children have been telling us how much they love the playground,” she says, “Overall, I think this is a very cool playground that our children really love exploring, and they will continue to love exploring on the playground.”

Not only has this project improved the daily lives of students at Mission Heights Primary School, but it’s also set a positive example for other institutions struggling with similar issues. The concrete-to-playground transformation is a testament to the power of creative, child-centred thinking in education.

Camelia concludes, “And I think it’s highly recommended.” With her endorsement and the clear delight of the children who play there, the new playground is an undeniable success, underscoring the importance of play in children’s development and how educational institutions can facilitate it. Mission accomplished!

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St Patrick’s School, Te Awamutu

St Patrick’s School, Te Awamutu

Natural Play Equipment are simple, but engage children imagination and problem solving skills.Natural Play Equipment are simple, but engage children imagination and problem solving skills.

"We were really keen on creativity and imagination. We were looking for something really different."

St Patrick's Catholic School
Te Awamutu
Circa budget:

In Te Awamutu, New Zealand, Saint Patrick’s Catholic School is charting its own path in the realm of children’s play spaces. This isn’t a story about the traditional playgrounds we all know, filled with swings and monkey bars. It’s about a school challenging the norms to create a new narrative for their playgrounds.

When the school’s senior playground fell into disrepair, Principal Shelley Fitness didn’t opt for a like-for-like replacement. She envisioned a different kind of play space – one that emphasized creative play, physical strength development, and appealed to all ages. Creo, with its non-traditional approach, was chosen for the task.

Play Video

Creo’s methodology was both collaborative and innovative. We worked with the school’s playground committee to understand the unique requirements, aligning their design with the school’s ethos. For Shelly and her team, what set Creo apart was their use of technology – providing not just blueprints but a virtual walkthrough. This brought the school’s vision to life, aiding their leadership in presenting the plan to the board and PTA.

The construction phase, a crucial stage where many projects can falter, was handled professionally. Creo created an isolated worksite, reducing the impact on the school’s daily operations and addressing safety concerns. Their regular communication with the school ensured the project moved smoothly towards completion.

"One thing we've really noticed is that the older kids play with the little kids, so it's no longer the senior playground and junior playground,"

Upon unveiling the new playground, there was a transition period as the children adjusted to the new play space. It was a departure from the familiar, but its uniqueness soon found favour. The space now sees children of all ages interacting and playing together, a far cry from the previous segregated setup.

The fresh approach taken by Saint Patrick’s Catholic School and Creo has drawn interest from other educational institutions. This playground, built on the pillars of creativity, strength, and inclusivity, has carved a new path in play space design.

This experience has underscored that change can sometimes be met with apprehension, but with careful planning, collaboration, and a bit of creative courage, new norms can be established – even on a playground. It serves as a reminder to other schools considering similar projects that innovation, while challenging, can offer exciting and rewarding outcomes.

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Elm Park School

Elm Park School

Full Service playground design and build company can work from surface to playground equipment manufacturing.Full Service playground design and build company can work from surface to playground equipment manufacturing.
Proper shade prevent wet pour rubber surfacing from getting hot.Proper shade prevent wet pour rubber surfacing from getting hot.
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“We decided to go with Creo because they were really interested in what made Elm Park unique to us.”

Elm Park School
Circa budget:

Elm Park School, a diverse community nestled in the heart of Auckland, found themselves facing an all-too-common problem: an outdated, 30-year-old playground. Deputy Principal Dave Walsh, a 26-year veteran of the school, describes the old space: “It was the old-style type of playground with, you know, climbing frames, the old woodchip bark.” The area, shaded by large trees, was also unsuitable for grass growth, which led to a dusty or muddy terrain depending on the weather.

The Promise of Transformation

The school knew they needed a change, and that’s when they found Creo, who specialise in play space design. Principal Sarah Baleicakau explains, “We decided to go with Creo because they were really interested in what made Elm Park unique to us.” Creo promised a design that would incorporate the school’s core values of respect, responsibility, and resilience, turning the space into more than just a playground – it would be a place where these values were nurtured and developed.

Managed risk is a key component of learing-focused playgrounds
The Project Begins From the outset, Creo impressed the school with their professionalism and dedication. “Health and safety was planned down to the detail,” Baleicakau recalls, noting that the worksite manager was always on-site and communication was consistently open and effective. A Nod to the Past Creo’s design didn’t just focus on the future. They suggested refurbishing and incorporating a 50-year-old climbing frame into the new design, preserving a piece of the school’s history. “That made it just that little bit more special,” Baleicakau notes, highlighting the project’s emphasis on sustainability.

Multi-Purpose and Multi-Functional

The transformed space is more than just a playground. It is now a multi-purpose area that promotes outdoor learning, physical education, and even confidence-building. “We know that learning just doesn’t take place inside the classroom,” explains Baleicakau. The playground has become a space for education outside the traditional classroom setting.

A Job Well Done

Upon completion, the playground received rave reviews from students and staff alike. “The children are absolutely thrilled with the playground. The staff are ecstatic,” shares Walsh. The space is not only used extensively but has added significant aesthetic value to the school environment.

“Creo was outstanding. They were professional, and their craftsmanship was second to none. We felt at ease at all times.” Sarah Baleicakau, Principal Elm Park School.

Looking Ahead

Elm Park School’s experience with Creo was overwhelmingly positive. As Baleicakau states, “Creo was outstanding. They were professional, and their craftsmanship was second to none. We felt at ease at all times.” This success story serves as a shining example of how a well-executed play space transformation can have far-reaching impacts on a school’s community. For Elm Park School, this may just be the first of many projects with Creo.

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One School Global Campus

One School Global Campus

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A brand-new play space for the students at One School Global Campus in Gore 

One School Global Campus
Circa budget:

One School Global Campus is a brand-new learning environment for children in the academic years of 3 to 13. This new school in Gore serves students from Dunedin all the way through to Invercargill by providing a safe space to learn, grow, and play.  

In 2022, the school teamed up with Creo to design and build a play space for the new school. Together they created a space that was safe, full of activity, could challenge students of all ages, and was diverse and inclusive for their school community. The new play area features swings, play structures, balance play, mounds, and comfortable safety surfacing to cushion all the bumps and falls that are sure to take place in the playground.  

Principal Sarah Gillbert explains that the space is full of activities and energy that encouraged the students to get creative and push themselves. “Our students like to challenge themselves… It’s great [the playground] because it offers that little bit of risk that children love, but it’s perfectly safe for them to use.” 

A standout feature in the play area is the safety surfacing installed in the space. The rubber surface provides the students with the opportunity to take risks, push themselves, and get creative with their play while knowing they are protected from those trips and falls. “The surfacing is nice and spongy. It’s perfectly safe for our students to play.”  

“It’s great because it offers that little bit of risk that children love, but it’s perfectly safe for them to use.” 

The play space has a range of height play options which Sarah explains that the kids at her school love. The variety of climbing opportunities throughout the playground keeps students entertained and encourages physical activity and competition. A range of balance play options can also be found in the playground, with mounds, and steppers scattered around the space, creating fun games, and challenges, pushing kids to get creative with their playtime.  

Our students absolutely love it. Every day there is laughter and lots of play going on in our playground. 

The new playground has been an absolute hit with students, and Sarah explains that the new space has been a great addition to the school. The students love it, and there is always laughter and play going on in the playground.  

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Northland School

Northland School

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Put walls where kids can climb.Put walls where kids can climb.
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For the past year, Creo has been working with the team at Northland School to create new and exciting playground spaces for the students and school community. 

Northland School
Northland, Wellington
Circa Budget:

In 2022, the first of the 2-stage project was completed, transforming an empty outdoor space into a fresh and engaging playground.  

Stage 1 of the playspace project at Northland School features a design and installation of a brand-new playground, located beside a new building structure at the school. The area designated for the play space is part of an existing larger asphalt court that the school wanted to turn into a natural-looking playground that was inviting and exciting for their students to use.  

Using a custom Robinia wood equipment structure and MulchSet rubber playground surfacing, the Creo team were able to create a natural-looking playground full of texture and warmth. The wooden structure is a versatile piece that encourages unprescribed play and children of all ages to get creative with their games and challenges The rubber mulch product ensures that falls or bumps are well cushioned and helps create a natural-looking safety surface that works well into the landscaping and future play areas to come in Stage 2.  

The Robinia wood equipment structure adds a unique element to the playground, providing a range of play types, including sliding, balancing, climbing, and a hanging-out area. The informal play type on the Robinia equipment adds to the overall natural and free-play feel of the playground. 

Creo worked closely with students and staff at the school to create a playground that encourages creativity, exploration, and physical activity. 

As stage two of the project is completed, the playground will offer even more activities and play opportunities. The concept plan for the second stage features proper basketball courts, a flying fox, landscaping and plantings, more play areas, and conversations/seating spaces for students and the wider school community to enjoy. These exciting elements will help provide the school with an inviting and engaging outdoor space that can be used for years to come.

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Anderson Bay School

Anderson Bay School

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Playground surface with different material, some pillars in gray.Playground surface with different material, some pillars in gray.
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Creating a challenging and natural play environment at Anderson Bay School.

Anderson Bay School
Circa Budget:

Andersons Bay School is a primary school located in Dunedin. In 2022, the school worked with the design and build team at Creo to create a brand-new play space for its students.  

In the early stages of the project, the school expressed that they wanted a fun new play environment with a natural look that could be both exciting and challenging for students.

Principal Pauline Simpson explained: “The importance of the natural environment is huge for us. We wanted to create something that gave a natural feel while giving children challenge and fun activities to use in their break times and also as part of their learning.” 

After designing and concept that incorporated natural wooden materials, landscaping, unique equipment pieces, and safety surfacing, the install team got on site and because to bring the space to life.  

The installation phase of the project at Andersons Bay School didn’t come without it’s set of challenges. The Creo team worked during one of the wettest winters on record, dealing with continuous rain for a number of weeks. Despite the difficult conditions, the Creo team continued to work through the rain and bring the playground together.  

The result is an open, and natural play space that blends into the landscape surrounding the school.  

One of the most popular items in the new playground is the flying fox. According to Principal Simpson, the children love it. “It is so well used by the children. It develops their upper body strength. It develops their do-operation. It’s surprising just how creative they can be with it.” Other features in the playground include a range of balance beams, swings, a climbing rope tower, and a slide.  

The new playground has had a significant impact on the school community. Students now have access to a range of fun and challenging activities during their break times, and the playground also serves as a learning tool during class time. The playground has become an asset to the school visually, blending in perfectly with the natural landscape, and has also provided children with even more opportunities for creative play. 

“At the end of it, we have a happy community and happy children who love this area down here. Visually it’s an asset, and it’s also an asset in terms of giving our children even more creative play options.” 

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Western Heights School

Western Heights School

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Western Heights School
Henderson, Auckland
Circa Budget:

Western Heights School is an exciting multicultural school made up of 725 students from over 50 different nationalities. The primary school is located in West Auckland for children from years 1 through 6.

Principal Ash Maindonald has been at the school for a number of years and in 2022 he reached out to Creo in the hopes of transforming the central area of their school into a vibrant space for students.

Ash describes the previous space as an “absolute eyesore”. The school’s central courtyard featured a big bark area with bushes and hedging, but the plants all got root rot leaving the space bare and dull.

“It was really depressing to bring new families into an amazing school and have them look at a centrepiece in the centre of our school that was just horrible.”

Transforming the space into something that was practical, colourful, and fit for purpose was very important to the school.

Ash spoke with other principals in the area who had previously worked with Creo, and asked them about their experience, the result, and how their spaces have worked out for the children at their schools, and after exploring Creo’s body of work on the website, Ash contacted the team to begin the project at Western Heights School.

“They came out [to the school], and spent quite a bit of time, at morning teas and lunchtime, just observing our children. Seeing how they played, seeing how they interacted and getting a feel for the culture of the school. Based on that, they came back with a proposal. That really impressed me.”

Creo worked closely with Ash and his team to make sure the space was built for a purpose and could provide value to the school and its students. The design team came up with a colourful and dynamic space that created different play opportunities and new elements that were exciting and challenging for the students.

A big feature of the previous bark space was two large trees that the school cherished and wanted to keep in the new play area. So Creo incorporated the trees into the space, adding a permeable rubber surface at their base, allowing the trees to continue to thrive, while also providing a soft cushion landing for students who climb the trees.

The new play space includes a combination of textures, play elements, and unique equipment pieces that keep kids engaged and draw people into the play space.

“When the project was finished, it was flooded with children. And it’s flooded with children every day. Little ones, big ones, they just love it. They can hang out, they can relax, they can challenge themselves, they can find peace, they can find friendship. It’s a really cool, fun place for them.”

The space is full of unique touches like the personalised surfacing and the inclusion of trees in the space. It’s a reflection of the fun, creative, energy of the school and its students.

“From day one, when Ben turned up and did his research, through to when Keith came in and talked about the project and how it would go. Every single person was brilliant. I can’t thank them enough. This company [Creo] is phenomenal.”

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