Burglars abseiled into a Dunedin building at the weekend, leaving a trail of destruction before stealing art supplies.

Art Zone owner Andrew Cook said a skylight in a University of Otago building housing the department of preventative and social medicine in Hanover St was smashed and burglars abseiled in overnight on Saturday.

Cabinets in the department were searched and a toner cartridge from a photocopier was emptied on a wall.

The department was above the art supply shop Art Zone.

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The burglars went downstairs, leaving a trail of toner, and removed a fire extinguisher from a wall to smash security glass in a door to enter Art Zone.

In the shop, someone tried to "jimmy open'' the cash register but failed, Mr Cook said.

The thieves stole 68 cans of Montana Gold spray paint - mostly shades of blue and some black and white. Also taken were about 40 "big fat'' water-based paint markers.

Senior Sergeant Ben Butterfield asked anyone with information to contact Dunedin police on 471-4800, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.