Arsonist hits Wellington school's new sports turf

Security fences surround the artificial grass turf at Lyall Bay School damaged by an arsonist.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Security fences surround the artificial grass turf at Lyall Bay School damaged by an arsonist.

Children at a Wellington school will return from the long weekend to find their near new sports pitch they fundraised $30,000 to lay has been damaged in a "devastating" arson attack.

Wellington police are investigating after arsonists dumped what appears to be a pile of plastic items on Lyall Bay's School artificial grass turf, melting a crater in it in what the school's principal says has been a hugely disappointing act. 

According to the school's website, the community had recently invested more than $700,000 in the playground, including netball courts and the turf.

Lyall Bay school principal Melanie Dean said families and the wider communities had fundraised through school fairs to be able to afford the turf which was laid at a cost of about $30,000 at the end of 2013, before she took the helm at the school.

She did not look forward to having to tell the children on Tuesday that their playing field was out of order.

"It will just be devastating."

"It is very disappointing because that piece of grass is used constantly by the children. It's got to be able to be used in winter and in summer - because of the weather in Wellington they're not able to play on grass all the time."

She was unable to get hold of the insurer or the company that made the turf over the weekend to find out whether the entire turf would need to be ripped up and find out whether the school would have to shoulder the cost. "It is going to be a bit of a hassle for us."

School parent Giles Brown said his children were among a group of locals who also used the pitch after hours and on weekends for social football. Because of the damage they had been unable to use it over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

The turf was a community good and school's pupils and teachers would be upset by the crime, he said.

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"Over the summer months on Saturday or Sunday there would almost always be people down there."

"Schools unfortunately seem to be a target for these sorts of things."

A Wellington police spokesman said they were investigating the arson, which was believed to have been carried out between 1am and 3am on Saturday May 30.

It appeared some plastic items had been burned but it was unclear whether an accelerant had been used. It was not known what the cost of repairing the damage would be for the school, police said.

Dean said those who carried out the attack, which she labelled "a bit malicious" probably needed help and she hoped they would come forward and find support.

"Hopefully they realise they need to get some help."

Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call Wellington police on (04) 381 2000 or provide information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

 - Stuff

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