Slipping out to buy milk in the middle of the night while burning the midnight oil on her laptop, Lori Paul was devastated on her return minutes later to find the laptop gone.
She is hoping whoever took it "has a conscience" and will return it once they realise its importance to her.
At first when she saw it gone she thought someone was playing a joke on her - but then she realised it had been stolen.
About 11.30pm just over a week ago, Ms Paul was working on her laptop in the dining room of her Kingi St home logging treaty and tribal information into it when she needed milk for a drink.
She said she popped out to the nearby service station, returning within minutes to find the computer with years of work on it missing.
A friend was asleep in the bedroom at the time and her dog, Lola, was roaming the house.
She thought the house was safe as living at Ohinemutu she knows all her neighbours.
"I really thought someone was playing a joke on me at first and then I realised it was gone," she said. "I was only gone like eight minutes ... I think it was just an opportunist thief."
While she was gone, her dog did bark and her visitor heard a male voice but thought she just had a friend over so didn't get up to investigate, Ms Paul said.
She wants the Toshiba laptop returned because of the valuable information and photographs stored on it.
"I'm just hoping someone has a conscience and returns it. There is about 10 years of tribal, land treaty and tribal photographs on it. They don't know the value of it," she said.
She had not backed everything up on a separate device.
"I've learned a very valuable lesson. It's quite painful because much it can't be replaced," she said.
Ms Paul notified police of the theft but said she hoped the laptop would be returned. It is black with the serial number 79330051K.
If you have information about the laptop please call police or call or text Ms Paul on 022 0305646.