Arson latest attack on kids

By Kristin Edge -
Head teacher Shelly Prisk with a very disappointed 3-year-old Dearne Fowler inside the burnt out whare. Photo / John Stone
Head teacher Shelly Prisk with a very disappointed 3-year-old Dearne Fowler inside the burnt out whare. Photo / John Stone

The head teacher at a Northland kindergarten has made a plea to the community to help catch the culprits who are destroying their playground with vandalism that now includes an arson attack.

Shelly Prisk of Raumanga Kindergarten is sick of vandals targeting the centre's playground and wants people to dob in the people she suspects live locally.

In the past two weeks thousands of dollars worth of damage has been done and, for the 40 young children who attend, a large part of their playground is a no-go zone.

First it was decorative ti tree poles being ripped from the fence line.

The following weekend it was a large sunshade that was ripped and damaged beyond repair.

Then last Saturday the vandalism took a nasty turn with a small whare (building), where the children played, was set alight about 4pm.

Thanks to an observant neighbour the fire was prevented from spreading as she hosed down nearby native plants before the fire service arrived.

The neighbour also spotted teenagers running from the kindergarten grounds shortly before seeing the flames. Police are investigating but in the meantime Ms Prisk has made a passionate plea for public help.

Pointing to a charred frame Ms Prisk said the structure had been clad in ti tree and was a great place to read with the children.

Yesterday orange netting fenced the whare off from the disappointed children, aged from 3 to 5.

"Every morning we come in and wonder what damage will be done. The community will know who they are and we need their help to stop this," Ms Prisk said.

"I think we need to target the parents of these children. Do they know where they are and what they are up to? This is a bit of a thrill for them and it's repetitive and they just keep doing more and more."

She said the community would end up paying for the damage as the kindergarten would have to fundraise to replace the shade sail.

The sail covered a climbing play area complete with rubber-mat flooring. The sail protected the children from sun in summer and rain in winter. It was now off limits.

"We have a yearly budget but I can't factor in this amount of damage," she said.

Ms Prisk said they were determined to catch those doing the vandalism. The centre may even resort to stepping up security around during the weekends and alerting the immediate neighbours if they saw anything suspicious to ring police.

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