This beautiful playhouse is a legacy project for Omokoroa Playcentre celebrating their 50th Anniversary. Here is what they say about their recent celebrations. 

Even the threat of rain couldn’t put a damper on celebrating our 50th birthday recently. Our Open Day celebration was a huge success with a turnout of around 100 guests – past, present and some who will hopefully become new members too.

We were especially thrilled to have five of the founding members from 1970 join in the festivities – Marie Firth, Shirley Deane, Ann Bostock, Val Pope and Beatrice Watson. The memories and laughter shared as they perused through old photo albums and learning records displayed in our history showcase made for some delightful moments to be a part of.

Marie says “[the day] was so special for me.  To see how far Omokoroa Playcentre has developed from the tiny seed that germinated 51 years ago is staggering.”

While the 50th anniversary actually fell in mid-2020, the commemoration was delayed until now to coincide with the completion of our new playhouse, a legacy project marking this auspicious occasion.

The open day saw all the usual areas of play set up for the kids to explore and experience, with so many resources that weren’t available when some of the past members attended. Guests were invited to ‘make a memory of Playcentre’ with collage; stamp their thumbprint on a commemorative piece of artwork which will be displayed at centre to mark the 50 years; and to rediscover artwork they’d contributed to in years gone by that was still on display. The enormous lizard mounted on the ceiling has had handprints added to it by our tamariki for over a decade. Face painting, a plethora of delicious home baking, and speeches from our founding member and current presidents offered something for everyone to enjoy. Mickey Weller, one of our 4 year olds who assisted his dad in building our new playhouse, was elated to be able to cut the ribbon, marking it officially ‘open for business’.

A Life Membership award was presented to Beatrice Watson who was the first kindergarten-trained supervisor at our centre in 1970-71 and who guided and facilitated the sessions in those early days. A commemorative gift was also presented to each of the founding members that attended. It’s such a great privilege to be able to honour those who have gone before us and who are still with us half a century later.

Omokoroa Playcentre, a parent-based co-op, has seen many changes over 50 years as would be expected with so many members participating throughout the decades. The need for a preschool and a way of socialising their isolated farm-based children was initially identified by Marie Firth back in 1970, and sessions ran twice a week out of Settlers Hall with 30 families participating.There was little money and not many adults had any sort of formal training in dealing with pre-schoolers. Equipment was donated or made by parents, and had to be brought in from the Scout Den outside the hall and carried back again for storage at the end of each session.

The desire for a dedicated building was finally met in 1989, when the Tauranga children’s library building was purchased for $6,000 and relocated one early August morning to its current site behind Settlers Hall upon a trbck. This brought more families along and by 1990, there 50 children on the roll. Since then, the property has seen a deck, sandpit, shed, and vege gardens added; the fort/playground was completed in 2013; and a major indoor facilities renovation was completed in 2018. The most recent play projects have been the construction of a new mud kitchen, pallet maze, nature area and of course, the new rainbow playhouse.

Recently we came across a comment in our centre’s history records from 1990 stating that ‘we are a friendly group whose members support each other in times of need’. We are so proud to say that hasn’t changed 30 years on, and we still do things like meal trains for new babies, helping each other out with childcare, and providing valuable support when people are going through tough times.


Mickey Weller 4yrs, current Playcentre member, cutting the ribbon to officially open the new Playhouse. Assisted by Jen Hague.

Photo credit: Rachel Buer

Founding members 1970 with current Presidents and Life Member.

Left to right:

Rear: Shirley Deane, Ann Bostock, Marie Firth, Val Pope, Beatrice Watson.

Front: EJ Weller, Anita Richardson, Jen Hague

Photo credit: Rachel Buer