If only donkeys could talk.
The owners of a rural childcare centre in Levin are reeling after it was robbed of an estimated $10,000 worth of equipment before it had even had a chance to open the doors.
The brazen burglary took place last Thursday night, just metres away from where donkeys, rabbits and chickens are stabled, and just days before the centre was due to open for business.
The equipment was stolen from an implement shed next to the creche. The stolen items included a ride-on lawnmower, weed eater, leaf blower, washing machine, dryer and a push lawn-mover.
Burglars gained entry to the shed by smashing a small window at the back.
Farmhouse Preschool and Nursery is owned by Ōtaki couple Dave Sando and Gaylene Williams, who were saddened by the burglary as it would have been a planned theft given the size of the items taken.
Williams said she believed the burglary was the work of at least three or four men, given they would have had to lift everything onto a truck or large trailer to transport the goods away.
It was frustrating as the creche had been fitted with security alarms but the implement shed had not. They were now planning to put alarms in the shed, too.
The burglary couldn't have come at a worse time, just days before they were due to finally open.
Sando said it was another setback for the centre after working through what they described as frustrating compliance regulations with the Ministry of Education.
Williams said the centre had originally planned to open in end of March, prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, and were also frustrated at how long it was taking to get the green light to open.
The website said they were opening in late June.
The couple had opened and operated numerous childcare centres in the lower North Island, including one in Levin, for the last 25 years, and had never had delays with licensing and compliance.
Williams said the delay in receiving a licence, compounded with Covid-19 setback, meant their investment was "eating its head off". They had managed to keep paying staff that were employed to work at the centre despite the delay.
Sando said certificates normally take weeks to issue, not months.
"From a commercial point of view its been a disaster. We've had staff and kids waiting and a building that's fully equipped," he said.
Meanwhile, the centre would have an initial intake of 30 children, with a new building in the plans would have space for 95 more children.
The new building was expected to be completed and open by the end of May next year.