The man behind one of New Zealand's best-kept secrets has vowed to repair damage done to a magical forest playground in a random act of vandalism carried out under darkness.
"Middle Earth", a quaint little playground nestled under the shelterbelt trees on the edge of Waitarere Beach State Forest, has brought joy to thousands of children who clamber over it on weekends, while adults relax and marvel at its brilliant simplicity.
A tiny piece of paradise, the playground is usually filled with happiness and laughter.
But it was sadly quiet at the weekend as the ropes and chains on all the main playground features had been expertly sliced with knives and severed with boltcutters one night late last week.
The fact that all pieces of rope were cut using a sharp knife, and that all chains were cut using boltcutters, suggested it was a planned act of sabotage rather than a random act of vandalism.
Waitarere Beach man John Thorpe said he first wanted to wait until police had a chance to apprehend a culprit before he would start fixing things.
A formal complaint was laid with Levin Police on Monday.
Thorpe, aged in his 70s, was originally from Wellington and liked the beach so much while he was on holiday in 2013 that he bought a section and started to build.
"It's a lovely place to be," he said.
His new home backed on to the Waitarere State Forest. In 2014, he began clearing away a tiny piece of the shelterbelt of the forest to make a shaded area under the trees for his grandchildren to play.
"I had a few months waiting for the building permit to come through, so I had to do something," he said.
A neighbour joined in and after months spent making a clearing, he took four trailer-loads of rubbish away, including thousands of bottles, an old television, fridge, and other appliances dumped on the forest edge.
In the clearing, metres away from his back fence, he hung a swing. Then a rope walk, then tyres, then a log seesaw ... then a flying fox, adding more features as he found the time.
He turned around one day and it had taken on a life of its own.
"I got a bit carried away," he said.
Thorpe bought an old blue jetboat from Bulls for $2.50, and an old jetski from Tangimoana for $1.95, and hung them from trees, and a old quad bike was mounted on a swivelling stand and could be swung around and around.
Logs found washed up on the beach were used to make equipment.
Generally the playground's features were made from donated items likes chains and rope, while he had been offered cash donations - which he had turned down - by people who had enjoyed it so much they wanted to contribute.
He was given a "Middle Earth" sign that had been on display at Wellington Airport and duly hung it between two trees, hence the name given to the playground.
Thorpe's grandchildren were growing up now and weren't visiting as much, but he was still keen to keep maintaining the playground for the enjoyment of others.
But he arrived home at the weekend after attending the funeral of one of his best mates to find the park in ruins.
"I was completely gutted. I was upset ... it brassed me off," he said.
"It's just gutless."
Thorpe said generally users of the playground respected the site. He picked up the odd bottle and piece of rubbish, but there had never been any problems. Until the weekend.
However, he said he wouldn't let one bad act ruin the fun of thousands of children or dampen his enthusiasm.
"Making people happy is one of the biggest gifts in life," he said.
Thorpe admitted he had never sought permission to build the park, but it wasn't hurting anyone and there had never been an issue.
"Nothing has ever been said, put it that way ... and nothing has ever gone wrong," he said.
"Everyone takes away their rubbish. I might pick up the odd lolly wrapper or the odd bottle because someone has left it behind from a picnic or a birthday party.
"You might get a bit of noise over the back fence, but it's people playing. If you go to the car racing you're going to get noise. I love seeing kids have fun."
A feature of the park was that it was challenging without being dangerous. There were ropes and logs, but that's what children wanted to play on, he said.
It was simply ... fun.