Children's lives have been put at risk after the theft of two electronic road warning signs outside Pukehou School.
The solar powered signs, worth $30,000 each, were positioned along State Highway 2 in Central Hawke's Bay and warned motorists to slow down with flashing yellow words, "school zone."
"Our main concern is that a significant road safety tool has been taken from the community," Eastern District Road Policing Manager Inspector Chris Wallace said.
"[It is] an extremely busy highway that carries a high volume of traffic, often travelling at high speed. These signs were very effective in slowing traffic down and making the road safer for little ones."
Staff from Direct Earth Electrical first discovered they were missing after being sent to re-set them before pupils returned to school after Christmas.
New Zealand Transport, who owned the signs, were trialling an 80km zone in the area.
"I can tell you now it's not working, cars keep zooming through," Pukehou principal Jenny Prebble said. "They don't make the association that the speed reduction is because of a school."
Ms Prebble was not hopeful the signs would be replaced because they were not insured.
"I think whoever took them needs to think seriously of who they are punishing when they steal from a school. It's a real blow for us. The signs made a big difference - being on a main road, it's quite scary around children."
Police believed it was the first reported theft of electronic school signs in Hawke's Bay.
If anyone has information about this crime, contact Waipawa Police on (06) 831 0700 or anonymously on Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.