For Rotorua volunteer Andrew Gibson, fixing up old bikes for underprivileged locals had become almost his reason for living.

Now he and others have been left devastated after the Linton Park Community Centre made the "excruciating" decision to close its bike shed after eight thefts in two weeks.

The Bike Shed, which had been running since 2014, refurbished a number of donated bikes that were then sold or donated to underprivileged locals.

The Rotorua Daily Post covered the community centre's first theft in March this year, when then manager Rick Mansell pleaded with thieves to "come and chat" to him if they really wanted the bikes.

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But his request fell on deaf ears and less than six months later the community centre has been forced to close the shed.

New manager Rosemary Mackenzie said the decision to close the bike shed recently was "excruciatingly painful for everyone involved".

"They [thieves] caused more than $3000 worth of damage and left the building irreparable.

"Our insurers eventually said no more."

Linton Park Community Centre have had to put up signs refusing new donations. Photo/Stephen Parker
Linton Park Community Centre have had to put up signs refusing new donations. Photo/Stephen Parker

During the multiple break-ins thieves had broken windows, damaged locks, stolen security cameras and used spray paint from within a locked cabinet to graffiti the exterior of the building.

"I am afraid our faith in human nature has been sadly dented," Mrs Mackenzie said.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
11 Sep, 2017 10:15am
4 minutes to read

"To be targeted like that was really devastating, we were getting incredibly stressed."

She said the reaction from the community was one of "total disbelief" and they still received regular phone calls from members of the public who wanted to help.

Lead volunteer Mr Gibson had spent five days a week in the bike workshop for the last three years.

"He has taken it very personally," Mrs Mackenzie said.

"Everybody we tell has just been devastated but for Andrew they have, and this may sound dramatic, but they have basically taken from him his reason for living."

Mr Gibson suffers from a learning disability and said it felt good doing something for the community and gave him a reason to get out of the house.

"I was gutted, all your hard work destroyed, I just feel like giving up," he said.

"It's horrible."

The old bike frames are now being sent to the scrap metal yard. Photo/Stephen Parker
The old bike frames are now being sent to the scrap metal yard. Photo/Stephen Parker

Although he is still continuing to volunteer at the community centre and with Community Kai, Mr Gibson said he would love to be back doing the bikes.

"Before my father died, he said I had a gift for repairing things and helping people, so that's what I was doing.

"It's been hard, there's not a lot of things I can do, but I can repair bikes."

The Linton Park Community Centre has now sent multiple bike frames to the scrap metal yard in large skips.

"What a wastage of bikes," Mr Gibson said.

"We tried to secure it and they still broke in, so that's it now, there's nothing we can do."

Rotorua police area prevention manager Inspector Stuart Nightingale said he admired the work the community centre had been doing.

"They can't sustain those kinds of losses.

"It hits home that people will steal from people even if they're doing something good and that's really disappointing."

Mr Nightingale said if they decided to reopen the bike shed, he would be happy to talk with them.

"I would like to see if there are ways we can offer them more support and help them better protect themselves against future theft."