There are holes in the ground and the hearts of the Te Puna Community Kindergarten after precious fruit trees were ripped out of a community garden.
Staff arrived at Te Puna Community Kindergarten on Wednesday morning to find a number of sentimentally significant shrubs, including citrus and peach trees, had been unceremoniously ripped from the earth.
"There's a real feeling of sadness ... [the thefts] have left a significant hole," headteacher Paula Osborn said.
The thefts were one of several in the area this week. Plants had been nicked from pots and landscaped areas in the community village off Minden Rd, she said.
While the trees were along the kindergarten entrance, tucked out of sight from the main road, the garden was intended to be a community space where people were free to come and take what fresh fruit they needed.
Osborn said the initiative was an extension of the kindergarten's teaching ethos.
"We teach the children that you have to give to receive when you're part of a community. People were welcomed to enjoy the fruit - that's why it was outside of the kindergarten.
"We wanted to create an oasis."
The shrubs were more than mere commodities and had been either been bought with money from fundraising or were specially donated by students' whānau.
A peach tree was among the significant plantings.
It had been gifted to the garden by the whānau of a student who had been voted as a leader, or rangatira, among the kindergarten students.
A ceremony, complete with a karakia, was held when the peach tree was planted and bulbs from the kindergarten's old premises were transferred over and planted at its base.
"[The tree] comes with its own whakapapa and history," teacher Larree Lesa said.
"The peach tree flourishing would have represented the whānau's son flourishing."
Osborn said the thefts would be reported to the police.
She said the kindergarten was also feeling vulnerable after the thefts and wondered whether attempts to recreate the garden by replanting trees would be foiled in a similar way.
"Our hearts will have to heal first."