4. At what point did you engage with council or Department of Early Childhood Education and Care
We were fortunate in that our playground construction did not need any Council approvals. But, the approval of the plan created between myself and Mathiou Services had to be approved by the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care. Very, very important that all your plans that are up here (points to head), and that are on paper are given to your governing body, which, in our case was the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care, Mt Gravatt. I brought them in on everything, absolutely everything. From showing them what we wanted to do, the elements we were trying to introduce, the plan and of course, our Waver had to be approved.
Can you explain what the waiver is?
The waver is required because under our Regulations every child is required 7m2 of play area every day. But your putting your hand up to say, “I can’t do that and do the renovations as well” so the Department needs to be able to see how you’re going to move the children in and out of the remaining space you have within the renovation timeframe that has been allowed. That is why that very strict timeframe you decided and submitted must actually work. So when the construction company comes in, they have to understand, as Mathiou Services did, I’ll only have this amount of time because I have told my Department and Officer that this time frame is all that is required to finish the job. There is a Fee involved and if you miscalculate, there is another Fee. Also, emergency exits and entries during the time of construction were very, very important as well, together with Risk Assessments. Because it wasn’t the normal play space, the normal environment that the Educators were working in every day, we had to come up with a new exit plan, and practice it with the children. We did this, and made it a “picnic excursion” (she laughs). No point in stressing the children and Educators!
5. How long did the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care approval take?
For me it took all of March to get started in April. And we stuck very much to the plan. Actually, the team at Mathiou Services were in and out, a week ahead so that was good.
In general, there is a timeframe that they (the Department) need to know. They can reject it, and they can keep coming backwards and forwards wanting more and more information. So, it’s not the last thing you do, it’s the first thing you do. Straight after you get your plan before you even decide when you’d like to start. Show them everything, say “this is what I’ve got” and they might respond with “we want to see this, or that, I want to see your waiver etc, etc”. You have to be very organised so that all the preparation is done before you plan to start the build.
6. How have you found the process?
It was a lot easier than I expected. Mathiou Services was doing the project managing, we had their lead builder on site almost everyday and if he wasn’t, I could contact them. Communication is key, and the communication (with Mathiou Services) was excellent, there was never a point where I felt like I didn’t know what was going on. Communication was vital. It also helped that MS project coordinator (Chris) set out exactly what was going to happen at each stage. So, I could tick it off as we went, and I could go on site and see what was happening each day.
They also listened to any variations I suggested. And it was easy because everyone was listening to each other. Everyone just down tools and I felt as though everyone was listening to me as we progressed.
We had little mini chats along the way, what they were going to do today, what they were going to do tomorrow. I thought I was going to be in for quite a tedious time, but it wasn’t, it was really very good. I think the way they structured it, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 helped. And I kept the Department involved throughout the whole process, updated with any changes big or small and even invited them to site once the completion of each stage had been completed. So, I think all of that helped with the process too.
Plus, the weather of course was a blessing, halleluiah, I think we only had 2 days of rain the whole time. So, word to the wise plan it during summer, do the job in Autumn and finish before winter.
7. What was your favourite part
I had so many favourite parts, (she tears up) I think my most favourite part was seeing everyone’s faces when it was done, it was such a change. It was amazing! The Educators just loved it and the families and the children too. The construction fencing came down early one morning before opening and as families arrived they all said “WOW”!!! – they just walked on the grass and through the playground and couldn’t believe it. And they looked from left and right because it was a whole new environment. And the Educators were just so thrilled about how their “facility area” had turned out. It was really important that their lives were made easier, they do a hard job. And um, it just worked, it all just worked out!
8. What would you have changed?
No, there was nothing that I would have changed because the process was so well thought-out. There was time to think about it. The engagement with the Mathiou Services team onsite was so good that any changes that had to be made, were made then. There was no surprises at the end. It’s important to be vocal about it, if you are going to make changes part way just say “Stop! I’m thinking this will be better here and this there.” It really is not a problem. It’s when at the end you decide, that it becomes a big problem.