Visitors to Palmerston North's Victoria Esplanade have been grounded by the theft of the popular flying fox.
Its cable was roughly severed some time on Sunday or Monday night, leaving about eight metres at the lower end, and four tyres abandoned on the ground.
Disappointed families have condemned the theft. Benjamin Fanning, aged eight, said he used the flying fox every time he visited the Esplanade and reckoned its thief was a ''selfish'' person.
He was surprised to find his favourite corner of the playground missing its centrepiece yesterday morning.
''I thought that maybe someone stole it or something like that, or the council took it or maybe they were going to put a new one in.''
Sally Watson, from Wanaka, was visiting her parents in Palmerston North, and had immediately noticed the flying fox she used to play on as a teenager was missing. She wondered if it had been stolen by someone planning to build their own flying fox.
''If they try and rebuild it I reckon they could have a really nasty accident - that's bad karma to them.''
Janet Allan, of Feilding, had brought her grandchildren to play at the Esplanade and was shocked that someone would steal a piece of a playground enjoyed by children.
''Whoever did it has spoiled it for everyone,'' she said. ''It's just mean-spirited to do something like that. I just can't understand the motivation of someone who would do that.''
City council contracts and leisure officer Nicki Hanna said the theft was particularly disheartening after a $20,000 investment made late last year to ensure it was in top condition for the summer.
The cable was replaced and tensioned, the safety surfacing underneath was extended and the height of the pole at the end of the ride was increased to reduce the impact of the ride's end.
Hanna said thieves would have had a heavy, difficult job removing the cable from the playground.
The park is closed to vehicles at night, so the people who took it would have had to carry the equipment to either the Fitzherbert Ave or Park Rd entrance. She has asked anyone with information to call Palmerston North police, who will be following up on the report.
Approximately 60m of steel cable about half an inch thick was missing, along with the saddle apparatus flying fox riders used.
Palmerston North Steelmaster branch manager Richard Boardman estimated the length of cable would weigh about 60 kilograms once rolled up, and would resemble a dead weight difficult for one person to manouevre on their own.
They would have had to have used hefty bolt cutters to sever the cable, he said.
He said the cable, excluding flying fox apparatus, would retail at an estimated $528 plus GST, brand new, but would be likely to fetch only $100 to $120 if sold as scrap metal if its thieves had managed to coil it without making kinks.
''Someone has obviously gone to a lot of trouble,'' he said. ''For a scrap dealer to buy that they would have to be a bit dodgy.''
People usually bought cable of that diameter to use for winching or for towing attachments to 4WD vehicles.
Boardman would be keeping an eye out for anyone trying to hock off a 60m length of second-hand steel cable.
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