Kāpiti Coast District Council is being accused of putting lives at risk, after not putting up any signs or barriers across the area’s 49 playgrounds.
Locals have repeatedly called on the council to put something in place that stops people from using playgrounds, but it's refused to take action.
“We are aware of the community concerns and this isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly. For our staff to attend to our 49 parks around the district, taping or putting up signs puts them at risk and that's something we’re not prepared to do. Plus we can’t guarantee that signage or tape would remain in place throughout the lockdown or deter people from using our playgrounds.”
The move has prompted residents across the district to take matters into their own hands, by putting up their own warning tape and signs.
One local, Neel Maharaj, has been distributing his own tape to others in the community.
“We've got a social media page on Facebook, and we've just been passing out these rolls to them. People started putting their hands up for doing it - very good community.”
Playgrounds across the country are closed as part of the Government’s Alert Level 4 lockdown.
Mr Maharaj says it’s difficult to stop children from running ahead and using playgrounds if they’re not cordoned off.
“Every parent is concerned about it,” he said.
Experts say it’s particularly important New Zealanders adhere to that rule, as germs can remain on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days.
“With all of the playground equipment, there's the opportunity - if there was some children playing on it who have Covid - there is a risk the virus may remain on some of that equipment for a period of time and then be transmitted to other children,” says professor David Murdoch from the University of Otago.
It’s not just children using playgrounds. Adults have been spotted using monkey bars for exercise.
“If this shutdown is going to work, we really need to have everyone abiding to it.”
Around the country, other councils have taken measures to ensure playgrounds aren’t used during the lockdown.
In Christchurch, local authorities have put up red tape and fenced off some of the city’s play areas.
The same move has also been taken up by Queenstown Lakes District Council.
Meanwhile in Auckland and Wellington, signs declaring the areas closed are pasted on equipment.
The Kāpiti council says the Government’s ruling on playgrounds has been clear enough, so signs or tape aren’t required.
“We’ve had a very clear instruction from the Government that playgrounds are off limits for now and we are asking our community to do the right thing, stay in their bubble and to follow the rules. This is how we’ll break the chain of community transmission and save lives.”
Mr Maharaj says he and others in his playground-vigilante network will continue to tape off playgrounds in the Kāpiti area until they run out of resources.
“I’m securing them for our kids, for our community kids.”