Enjoy our new series, Out & About, focusing on accessibility and suitability of various public places in Auckland for babies and small children.
One of the most steadily growing cities of South Auckland (yes, since the supercity merger, the Franklin district has become the southern-most district in the Auckland region) is the former town of Pukekohe. Once a sleepy little rural centre, Pukekohe has recently seen a boom in restaurants, chain stores and sweet boutiques to become a hive of activity. One of the most recent developments has been that of Pukekohe Plaza, a multi-level building containing Farmers, Stevens, ASB, Muffin Break, Pita Pit & Trade Aid as major tenants, in conjunction with a local chartered accountancy firm.
Other than the stores, one of the Plaza’s key attractions for out-&-about mummies is the undercover parking. Am I right, mums? There is nothing worse than having to wrangle a stroller, storm cover and squirmy baby in a tight carpark. Bonus points if you have more than one child! So with the wet miserable days of winter, a place with undercover parking is ideal and multiple layers of undercover parking is a total win. Entering off Devon Lane or Wesley St, you want to shoot up to the first level, where the parent & child parking is situated just outside the top Farmers’ entrance. These parks have huge space at the front of the park. I like to set the stroller up there, out of the way of other traffic, and then move CJ from the seat into the stroller. One downside of the parking building is the split level parking – if you don’t get a park on the entrance level, there may be some ramp negotiation in a stroller which I am not the biggest fan of. I recommend you park next to the lifts if you need to go up a level or two. These are well sign-posted.
The parents’ room is located on the ground floor, down the same corridor as the toilet facilities. One of the things that I liked about the location is that it is set back from the bathrooms down the same corridor so you aren’t subjected to the less-than-savoury smells that can emanate from public facilities. The parents’ room is actually more of an alcove. As you enter the corridor, there is a parents’ toilet to the right, large enough to fit parent and stroller in (because lord knows, mums and dads need to go to the bathroom too!) and then down the end of the corridor is an alcove with sink and changing table, plus additional feeding cubicle. I was surprised at how quiet this area was and suspect that some clever design has gone into making this area feel closed off without the use of a door. However, the lack of door means this may not be an ideal feeding area for those with a baby and toddler with escape artist tendencies.
The facilities are relatively spartan but clean and I am a big fan of having the sink next to the changing area, ideal if you are dealing with a Number 3 situation. I do wish they had more than one change table – at peak hours there can be a little queue – but in order to achieve this the alcove size would need to be increased. I am a huge fan of the fact that the feeding chair is in a cubicle – so often smaller parent rooms lump everything in together and this is a massive assumption that mothers are always the ones changing their child’s diapers. A separate feeding cubicle – even if inelegantly screened off with a shower style curtain, as in this case – means that dads like Papa M are a lot happier changing a child, knowing that they are not intruding on any breast-feeding mother’s privacy.
Small but convenient, the Pukekohe Plaza parents’ room is ideal for parents with just one child (or one child per adult) due to the inability to “fence” additional children in and entertain them. If you are a parent of two or more out and about in this area, the Plunket Rooms on Wesley Street offer a private room where you can breast-feed in privacy while your children play with the supplied toys. Most cafes in Pukekohe are also breast-feeding friendly, for those with less feeding troubles.
UPDATED: An employee of Farmers has recently advised us that there is also a breastfeeding area in the nursery section of their store, located on the first floor at the opposite end of the store to the car park. This might be ideal for nursing mothers who need a little quiet but also a bit more room for their brood 🙂
Head on out South and check out what Pukekohe has to offer for families – you might be surprised!