Stephanie is a senior reporter for the Rotorua Daily Post.

300 fake gala tickets cost school thousands

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A Rotorua principal believes his pupils have been ripped off about $6000 after 300 counterfeit tickets were used at its gala.

Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said the "wind was knocked completely out of us" when the fake tickets were discovered after the school's gala last week.

"We get our tickets made commercially so they are all exactly the same size and dimension. While we were counting them after the gala a few of the teachers started noticing tickets that were slightly smaller, a slightly lighter shade of blue and with a photocopier mark."

Mr Watkins said the tickets changed colour every year and went on sale a week before the gala to avoid long queues on the day. Each ticket was worth $1 and were used to avoid cash being stored at the event.

"The amount we have lost from these tickets is much greater than their $1 value as they have been used on stalls to win prizes and buy items.

We know at least 60 of the tickets were used on the spinning wheel for raffles and the dollar value of those raffle prizes were between $100 and $300.

Westbrook School student council presidents Harry Koller-Schultz, 10, (left) and Haylee Fraser, 10, with principal Colin Watkins. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
Westbrook School student council presidents Harry Koller-Schultz, 10, (left) and Haylee Fraser, 10, with principal Colin Watkins. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

"We were feeling confident and bouyant about how the gala went this year and were expecting to draw in around $24,000 so when we worked out what had happened, any sense of elation we had was undermined."

Mr Watkins said the gala was the school's biggest fundraising event of the year and directly benefited students in helping subsidise costs such as camps, school trips and sports fees.

"It is appalling that there are low lifes out there that are willing to deliberately rip off our most vulnerable kids - that's who the money from the gala benefits.

"It's absolutely gut-wrenching and there is not a single person in the school who has not been affected by it."

Mr Watkins said he lodged a complaint with police and was appealing for anyone who knew something to come forward.

Parent Jackie Mutu said she could not understand how somebody could think to do that.

"I was quite angry when I found out. That money goes to children who can't afford to go on camp or pay their sports fees so for somebody to rip them off like that is unbelievable."

Senior Sergeant Courtney Brunt said police were keen to hear from anyone with information about the tickets.

"We all want our kids to benefit from having great activities and facilities at schools, and these are often paid for through fundraising at events such as annual galas.

"It's a tremendous shame that someone has essentially robbed the school involved of those funds by introducing counterfeit tickets.

"Someone knows who has either produced these tickets, or used them at the gala, and we would encourage them to ring the Rotorua police on (07) 348 0099."

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