School kids' white Christmas

20:41, Dec 13 2012
snow, Byron Connew
WINTER WONDERLAND: Students at Papatoetoe North School get a white Christmas from snow-maker Byron Connew.

Lucky schoolchildren were walking in a winter wonderland when the North Pole came to South Auckland this week.

Eight hundred children took to the basketball court at Papatoetoe North School to play in large drifts and flurries of freshly fallen snow.

The sudden cold snap was courtesy of special effects whizz Jason Durey who coated 11 low-decile Auckland schools with snow over two days. It's his fourth year creating white Christmases for local children.

He was originally inspired to take on the project after "whiting out" the playground at the West Auckland school of his "Little Buddy".

Durey was paired with 12-year-old Bradley for the Little Buddy project, which matches fatherless boys with male mentors.

"The kids at Bradley's school just loved it so I decided to do something for kids who don't necessarily have a lot to cheer about at Christmas," Durey said.

The snow, a biodegradable, phosphate-free foaming agent that's usually used to put out forest fires, is sprayed on school courts, trees and playgrounds for children to enjoy.

Durey said it can last for about six hours untouched but after being run on, jumped in, scooped up and thrown by hundreds of children, it usually melts away in about half an hour.

"And it's non-toxic so it doesn't sting your eyes or hurt any plants."

The Aucklander is an old hand at creating freak weather. His company Film Effects Co has worked on many of New Zealand's major film and TV productions including The Piano, Whale Rider, Xena and Outrageous Fortune.

Durey was joined at the schools this year by fellow special effects expert Byron Connew who described the experience as "the best day at work ever".

Papatoetoe North principal Peter Conroy said the experience was "incredible" for the students, many of whom have never seen snow.

His school has been taking part in the White Out for the past few years.

"It's just the happiness of it all. You can be serious for an awful long time but you've got to enjoy the events of the year as well as working hard."


Auckland Now