Last hurrah: Queenstown Playcentre kaiako Alex Hide with some of the current and former families of the playcentre

It’s the end of an era for Stanley St’s Queenstown Playcentre.

While its origins date back to 1951, when public health and Plunket nurse Mona Hood sewed the seeds for the growth of the playcentre movement in Queenstown, the playcentre has called Stanley St home since the beginning of 1980.

Next month it will move to a new home, beside Queenstown Primary School.

The land’s likely to become a temporary carpark, being considered as part of council’s long-term plan, but will be vested as local purpose reserve.

Recently, the playcentre invited past and present families to reunite, share stories, and say goodbye to the much-loved site.

The move will be the playcentre’s sixth over its almost 70-year history.

Queenstown’s first-ever Queenstown Nursery Playcentre day was held in 1956 in the old Garrison Hall, in Beach St, between O’Connells Hotel and Hotel Queenstown, before it later moved to the St Peters’ Anglican Church’s parish hall, in May, 1962, for the rental of 15 shillings
a week.

In 1968, it again moved, this time to the Centennial sports stadium in the school grounds.

As had been a theme throughout its existence, heating in all the facilities was an issue — the playcentre was often referred to as ‘Siberia’ and children frequently cried due to the cold.

One year, after working in below-freezing conditions at the stadium, it had to close for three weeks.

In 1974, the playcentre moved to the former Queenstown Fire Brigade station, on what’s now Shotover St’s Brian Smith Park — at a rental of 50 cents a week.

Not long after that, a new high school was proposed in Gorge Rd, so the playcentre committee requested a section of the old high school, on Stanley St, on which they could have a permanent home.

After a three-year saga of meetings, consultation and countless letters, led by playcentre patron Nancy Williams, permission was finally granted, with the-then education department zoning an area of the high school complex for pre-school education.

Playcentre kaiako Alex Hide says their new home, in two existing classrooms close to the Queenstown Fire Station, is a slightly smaller space, but that has benefits.

‘‘Where we’re going to is beautiful, and it’ll be nice to be in a manageable site.’’

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