The Tauranga woman who opened her personal collection of Christmas ornaments to the public is still happy she did despite having two of her treasured trinkets stolen.

And Margaret Gundersen is keen to do it all again next year.

Two girls believed to be 9 or 10 years old wandered into the display at Bethlehem Town Centre on Saturday and walked out five minutes later with arms folded.

A friend helping to act as "eyes and ears" for Ms Gundersen mentioned the girls were acting suspiciously, so Ms Gundersen followed them out.


"I followed them to a play area around the corner and asked them if they had stolen from me, and they said 'yes'."

Ms Gundersen said she got the items back and left the girls behind. They did not have parents with them so she did not report the incident to anyone.

Instead, she returned the items to their places inside the display. "I might have millions of things here but I know exactly what I've got and where it goes," she said.

"This one here," she said cradling the miniature snow globe, "my granddaughter gave me that, it's quite sentimental.

"She was quite young then, probably the same age as the girls who took it."

Ms Gundersen said she was disappointed by the theft but did not let that overshadow her Christmas experience. "It has been really positive. We've had a lot of grandparents coming in with their grandchildren and I've really enjoyed seeing the three generations of families coming in also," she said.

"I've had so much joy and pleasure out of sharing all of this.

"It's a way of reaching people and sharing with them what Christmas is all about."

It took four trailer-loads and five car-loads to get the collection from her Merivale home to Bethlehem, and perfecting the display took a week's work.

The display includes at least three working trains, including a green, red and white one with movable tracks, nativity scenes and miniature buildings lit up with Christmas lights.

For the last few years, Ms Gundersen's home has been opened to the public each Christmas with local churches, family and friends visiting the display.

This year, she was offered space inside a vacant shop at Bethlehem Town Centre. Ms Gundersen said she would love to return again next year. Yesterday was the last day the display was open.

Neighbour Heather Bigwood said she was saddened someone attempted to steal from Ms Gundersen. "It's really disappointing. These are all things Margaret has saved up."