Council is renewing the playground at Central Gardens, Hawthorn, known by many as “Rocket Park”. 

Due to its age and condition, the playground is scheduled to be renewed in 2021-2022.


During consultation, community feedback indicated a strong desire for the existing rocket play piece to be retained as part of this playground renewal. 

We listened to our community and have successfully found a way to retain and renew the original rocket, and ensure this play piece remains a local landmark for Boroondara. 

In order to achieve this, some works will need to be undertaken on the current rocket to address and improve its structural and safety standards, as well as renew its lifespan. 

A new playground design, which incorporates the community’s most preferred play requests and centres around the renewed rocket and a space exploration theme, is now also available to view.  

Project background

This project will include new and renewed play equipment and nature play opportunities, shade, improved accessibility, renewal of some park amenities, and new landscaping.

Community consultation was held in February 2021 to help inform the new playground design for this planned renewal in 2021-22.

Prior to consultation, external auditors assessed the safety of the playground and maintenance requirements of the existing equipment. These audits identified a number of elements where the existing equipment no longer meets current playground safety standards, as well as a number of structural issues. 

We follow best practice principals and our standard process when undertaking a playground upgrade is to renew and replace all equipment that is non-compliant with the standards at the time of renewal.

It was originally proposed the entire playground be replaced and feedback was sought during community consultation on what it should be replaced with. However, community feedback indicated the strong desire for the existing rocket to be retained. 

We listened to our community and in response have worked hard to find a way to retain the original rocket and meet the required current standards, all while ensuring it remains a local landmark for future generations to enjoy. 

The rocket

Following community consultation, we engaged additional independent experts to undertake further investigations on the rocket. This included another play audit, structural report and heritage assessment to determine if there was a way to retain it.   

These investigations re-confirmed previous safety and structural concerns, stating we can retain and renew the lifespan of the existing rocket for future generations to enjoy provided the following modifications are made: 

  • Increase the internal circular openings between each platform to a minimum of 500mm wide to improve access. 
  • Add a new side ladder access point to the Level 1 platform, and infill the existing circular hole access point below to increase standing space area for the junior slide (which will now be accessed via the new side ladder).
  • Replace all rubber surfacing.
  • Modify the size of the gaps between some of the metal bars and infill other areas to meet current spacing standards.  
  • Replace structural footings and the base of the rocket fins to address metal corrosion and renew structural support.  
  • Treat and re-paint entire metal structure.

These works will minimise the risk of injury or fall, prevent limb entrapments and improve access for children and carers.

A heritage assessment has concluded that these works will not adversely impact the well-known attributes of the rocket. 

To conduct these works, the existing structure will need to be transported off-site for around 10-12 weeks before it can be returned to its original location. Images of the repair and modification works will be shared during this time to keep the community updated on the progress of the rocket’s renewal journey.

Playground design concept

With retention of the existing rocket confirmed, we are pleased to present a renewed playground design concept for the community to view.

The key themes we heard from the community about their preference for the overall playground design included: 

  • A fun and engaging playground that makes memories which stay with people for a lifetime
  • We love nature play and water elements 
  • We like to swing and use some traditional play equipment

The new playground design has been centred around the rocket, and utilises the theme of space exploration to create a playful narrative that supports this much-loved play piece. 

Key features of the new design include: 

  • a renewed rocket that has stood the test of time and holds strong connection to ‘days gone by’ and the power of human endeavour [see above for list of modification works to renew this play piece and example photos]
  • new ‘traditional’ equipment such as monkey bars and a combination play unit combined with a partly accessible ‘mission control centre’
  • inspired ‘Mars landing terrain exploration’ with mounds, tunnels, rocks and craters for balancing, clambering and hopping challenges for all ages
  • water play zone
  • a variety of swings for young and old
  • increased playground access overall, with path connectivity and paved play surfaces suitable for users with limited mobility so all children and their families can play together
  • increased built and natural shade canopies, inspired by out of space constellations and UFOs 
  • upgrade of the adjacent drinking fountain.

If you have further questions or would like to provide feedback on the new playground design, please contact our Landscape and Design team via [email protected] or on 9278 4444 before Friday 2 June 2021. 


When Stage Progress update
February 2021 Community consultation We asked the community for their feedback to help inform the design of the new playground
March - April 2021 Further investigations undertaken into retaining the rocket  These investigations confirmed the existing rocket can be retained and renewed with specific modifications. 
June 2021 Playground design concept finalised The design concept for the renewed playground is shared with the community 
February 2022 Playground closed and works to commence The rocket will be removed from site for refurbishment works while construction works are also undertaken for the wider playground renewal
Mid 2022 Renewed playground complete Playground is reopened for the community to enjoy

More information

For more information contact Council’s Landscape and Design team on 9278 4444 or [email protected].

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