A devastating burglary at a Whangārei community garden that helps feed the city's poor and homeless is making the organisers rethink how they operate.

The Maunu Garden Project, in Cemetery Rd, has been growing veges for the last decade and providing the produce to the Salvation Army's food bank and, more recently also to the Open Arms day centre that provides food and help to the city's homeless and rough sleeper community.

Astrid van Holten, from the project, said it was a voluntary organisation that relied on donations and grants to help feed some of the district's most vulnerable people, and the break-in has hit them hard.

Volunteers discovered the break-in and theft last Wednesday when they opened up for the day and they were heart broken when they realised what had happened, with the thieves breaking into three buildings, van Holten said.


She said around $5000 worth of property was taken, including tools, all the crockery from the kitchen and food from the freezer.

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Three of the items stolen were brand new - a Ryobi Brushcutter 52cc; Goldair Chef BBQ 3-plate and Ryobi 160cc self-propelled lawnmower. The barbecue was still in the box and hadn't been built yet.

''It's just devastating really. We are set up to help some of our most vulnerable people and this happens,'' she said.

''It was amazing, we just couldn't believe how much they managed to take.''

The Maunu Gardens Project has been hit by theft. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The Maunu Gardens Project has been hit by theft. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The theft is another blow for the project which had to delay its winter plantings due to the Covid lockdown and van Holten said the social agencies they helped needed the food they produced to feed some of Northland's most vulnerable folk.

''We are a community group that relies on volunteers and community donations and this has hit us hard. We only have four people on the board and we are now seriously having to consider where we go from here and how we look going forward.''

She said the project had also recently started running Saturday morning classes teaching people how to set up their own vege gardens.


Anybody with information about the thefts can contact Whangārei police. If you want to help the Maunu Garden Project you can contact them via Facebook at www.facebook.com/maunugarden or email maunugardens@gmail.com.