By Rhoda Wartington and Elisa Maeva

Pakuranga-rahihi Playcentre observed its 60th birthday on the last day of July, in conjunction with the Centre’s hui whakanui o Matariki (party).   Everyone joined together to ensure that the celebration would be a memorable one.  

The venue of choice for the celebration was the Glen House hall, chosen specifically for its convenience and historical ties to the Playcentre. The hall was made up beautifully for the festivities and all whānau who attended provided a cuisine from their respective cultures

A beautiful cake (baked by one of the members) was the centrepiece, and a lot of fun and laughter was shared. Some of the most memorable highlights of the evening were the kids’ disco, lighting up some sparklers outside, singing Happy Birthday and blowing out the candles. 

Pakuranga-rahihi Playcentre, originally known as the Pakuranga nursery Playcentre, was established in March 1959 by a small group of mothers who, at the time, commuted with their pre-schoolers to the Howick Playcentre.  At that time, the Pakuranga area was relatively undeveloped and bereft of any schools, churches, halls or community centres.

Members had to hold their meetings at the old Mathias church hall in Panmure because of the lack of a suitable venue in Pakuranga.  From May 1962 to 1967, the Pakuranga Playcentre moved to the Pakuranga hall, and from there to the Glen House building with the Girl Guides and Scouts.

After years of contending for a space of its own, the Playcentre’s building plans were approved and finally in 2002, a brand new building was constructed for our members.  In recognition of this momentous event, we were gifted the name Pakuranga-rahihi Playcentre by the Ngāi Tai tangata whenua of this area. This is a precious taonga (treasure) meaning “battle of the suns rays” –  a story rarely shared with outsiders before this event.

Today, Pakuranga-rahihi Playcentre is a bustling haven for families from all walks of life and cultures.  New members bring with them new understandings of whanaungatanga and manaakitanga, while all members respect the fact that parents are the first and most important teachers of their tamariki.  The tagline for Playcentre is “Welcome to our village”.  Anna Fleet, Auckland’s regional manager, describes this place nicely when she explains that “when you walk through that gate, our village becomes yours.  You become part of a community of adults and children working, learning and playing alongside each other.”

Happy 60th birthday Pakuranga-rahihi Playcentre.  May there be many more wonderful years ahead where you continue to serve our community as faithfully as you do now.