Thefts hurt kids the most

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 11:01 27/06/2014
Nikora Matangi
DEREK FLYNN/Fairfax NZ

SHOCKED: Teacher Nikora Matangi, with Jada Taoho, 3, is disappointed that people would steal from children.

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Teachers and parents at a Blenheim early childhood centre were gutted when they discovered thieves had stolen from their children.

A blue container full of toys used in the sandpit was the first thing staff at Nga Puawai Kohanga Reo, on Budge St, noticed missing. Over the next week, they discovered more items had been stolen, including a baby swing that had been taken off its hinges, a shoe rack and an outdoor picnic table.

Police say the theft happened between June 14 and 17.

Teacher Nikora Matangi said it was the 14 children at the kohanga who missed out.

"It's our kiddies they're stealing from," she said.

"We were absolutely gutted. Who steals from children?"

The outdoor table was too heavy for her and another teacher to lift, she said.

They believed more than one person was involved in the theft, and had access to a trailer or ute to take the table away.

Until now, nothing had been stolen from the kohanga during the past five years, she said.

"We've become quite trusting of the neighbourhood," she said.

"We're quite happy for people to come and play during the weekend."

However, the theft had forced them to buy chains and padlocks to make sure it didn't happen again, she said.

Mother Deedee Bancroft, whose 3-year-old son goes to the kohanga, said the centre didn't get as much funding as mainstream kindergartens and couldn't afford to replace the stolen items.

A lot of the toys and equipment had been bought with donations, Bancroft said.

She was furious when she learned of the theft.

"They've stolen from the kids," she said.

"Who goes and steals stuff from a kindergarten?"

Last year taps, a hose and sprinklers were taken from the community garden next to the kohanga, and during the holidays staff had to chain the picnic table to the verandah to ensure it didn't get stolen.

"That's not a cool look," Bancroft said.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to contact Blenheim police on 03 578 5279 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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