Snow comes to Papatoetoe
Lucky schoolchildren were walking in a winter wonderland when the North Pole came to South Auckland.
Eight hundred kids 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 kids.
He was originally inspired to take on the project after "whiting out" the playground at his Little Buddy Bradley's school in West Auckland.
Mr Durey was paired with 12-year-old Bradley through 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," Mr Durey says.
The snow, a biodegradable, phosphate-free foaming agent that's usually used to put out forest fires, is sprayed on to the schools' courts, trees and playgrounds for children to enjoy.
It can last for about six hours untouched but after being run on, jumped in, scooped up and thrown by hundreds of kids, it usually melts away in about half an hour, Mr Durey says.
"And it's non-toxic so it doesn't sting your eyes or hurt any plants."
The Auckland man 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.
Mr 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 says 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, he says.
"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."