I probably sounded a bit negative when I wrote about the play area at Waitangi Park, so here are some positive observations and local examples of the kind of play equipment that does give a sense of place and express local character.
This is the well-known slide at Frank Kitts Park: it's built in the shape of a lighthouse, referencing Wellington's maritime heritage, and the albatross at the top swings to face into our notorious winds. A climbing net and telescope add to the nautical feel. I'm not quite sure what the spiky blobby bits at the top are supposed to be, but they give the whole thing a quirky cartoonish aesthetic that's consistent with the Fane Flaws-Debra Bustin-Six Volts-Leod Hais milieu that was so influential in Wellington in the early 90s.
The slide in Cuba Mall is more generic, but curling up underneath it is this giant tuatara. It's a good example of something that doesn't need to be explicitly "play equipment", yet is immensely popular with kids (and parents, from the looks of things). Another crucial point is that it's right next to a couple of cafés, allowing caregivers to keep an eye on their kids while relaxing with a coffee, rather than standing around in a windswept park. Grownups need something to do, too! At least Waitangi Park will have a kiosk next to the play area.
Another alternative to "play equipment" is what I like to call a "playful landscape". This sculpture, Nga Korerorero by Sivia Saldago (mentioned as part of the CBD heritage walk), is in Midland Park just in front of Magnetix. It's a great example of a multi-functioning urban element, since it's not just a sculpture and water feature, and a memory of the Kumutoto Stream which used to enter the harbour just across the road, but it also provides informal seating and a place for children to play. It's not a "playground" in the way that we've come to expect, with swings and slides in primary colours, but children can never resist running water and stepping stones.
Waitangi Park will actually have plenty of playful landscapes and opportunities for imaginative play other than the play area itself (the wetlands, climbing boulders and "manuka tunnel"), and I applaud the design team for that. It's just a pity that the equipment they've bought from a European multinational , while no doubt educational and enjoyable, doesn't continue that level of creativity and sense of place.