Yes, it’s rocket science: council to keep Hawthorn’s rocket on the launchpad

The park’s eponymous sculpture stands seven metres high in Hawthorn’s Central Gardens. Dylan Banicek
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A fiery community response means Boroondara council will keep Hawthorn’s famous rocket playground. Dylan Banicek and Eddie Russell report.

In response to public outcry, The City of Boroondara will keep the rocket playground in Hawthorn’s Central Park after proposing to remove it.

“We will keep the rocket,” Glenferrie Ward Councillor Wes Gault said. “We will sort out all the issues.”

Hawthorn’s Central Park—colloquially known as Rocket Park—was at the centre of public attention when the council announced plans to remove the iconic structure in February as part of replacing the playground.

A “Save Rocket Park” petition has raised over 11,000 signatures since the announcement. The petition urged the council to preserve the play equipment based on its significance to local history.

“We are very pleased to see such a strong petition coming through and its support,” Cr Gault said in the last council meeting, on March 29.

This has been a very difficult process we’ve worked through.

He said the initial plan to remove the rocket was done to gauge the community’s opinion. “But the community has responded very strongly,” Cr Gault told the council.

Hawthorn resident and member of Save the Rocket campaign Chris Poustie said the rocket’s significance extended beyond the playground.

“I think culturally it’s pretty important … you need a little bit of attachment to the past,” Mr Poustie said.

“It was a meeting place for the community … they were very good times.”

Mr Poustie said he was worried the historical artifact, built over 50 years ago, would fade from public memory if removed.

“This thing’s become iconic and we’re trying to demolish it,” he said.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Yes, it's rocket science: council to keep Hawthorn’s rocket on the launchpad
The proposal to remove the rocket has prompted uproar from local residents. Credit: Edward Russell.

For local Michelle Dunn, the rocket was the bridge between two pivotal moments in her life: moving to Melbourne and raising her two children.

“I remember seeing the rocket from the train on my very first day … now I have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, and I take them to the Rocket Park to play,” Ms Dunn said.

The first port of call is always the rocket.

Ms Dunn said replacing the beloved structure with another generic plastic playground would hardly inspire young children.

“The rocket captures the imagination and is a special place that kids can go,” she said.

“Playground equipment these days is very same-y. The rocket is different.”

Cr Gault said as part of the Playground Replacement Program, the equipment had to be checked and approved for both its structural integrity and safety standards before going forward, and that council was taking great care with the details.

Experts had assessed the rocket’s foundations for corrosion and children’s safety, he said. “In my view, it is safe and always has been safe.”

Further communication is expected later this month regarding Boroondara Council’s decision to keep the rocket.

The council sought submissions from the public in February regarding its plans and allowed residents to provide input to inform the park’s new design.

Cr Gault said the council was still consulting resident submissions and would issue a concept design for the park next month based on this input.