A new $88,000 school playground is open to the public, with signs threatening social media exposure to anyone who vandalises it.
This comes after parents allegedly threatened to sue the principal after a post of their children allegedly damaging the school property went viral.
Privacy advocates warn the "vigilante approach" by the school could misrepresent and potentially harm alleged culprits.
Horahora Primary were recipients of last year's Covid-19 government response and recovery fund to help schools.
They received $275,000 and principal Pat Newman said they used $88,000 of it to replace the previous 40-year-old playground which, along with the rest of the school, had copped abuse from those who did not live locally.
He said with the open gate policy, the children of visiting supporters at the next-door Horahora Rugby Club were responsible for damaging the school, along with items the children had made.
The grounds were unfenced because the school and rugby club had shared access to their grounds.
Said Newman: "I need to be clear, it's not locals doing the vandalising. We welcome the public to use our grounds, by the way, and that's one reason we don't have fences.
However, the playground is for children aged 10 and under."
He said the 340-pupil school was located in a cul-de-sac which helped it remain unfenced. It was a position that aligned with the school ethos around teaching children road safety.
However, the free-rein was being abused by some.
The school had around 35 security cameras, with more to follow. After posting photos to the school Facebook page of the kids, believed to be aged around 12, who allegedly vandalised the old playground and it subsequently reaching several thousand people, the alleged perpetrators were identified within quarter of an hour.
However, their parents weren't happy. "They came in for a meeting and there was little interest from the parents about their kids' behaviour. In fact, they threatened to sue me," said Newman, adding that there was no follow-up with the youth.
"I found it very strange and sad that they didn't think it was a problem that their children vandalised.
"I would have thought, as parents, if your kids were vandalising, you would actually support and be thankful for identifying them so that they can change their behaviour."
This time, the message was clear; with the new playground, which opened on Thursday, came signs stating: "This playground is only for children 10 years and under. All children using the play equipment out of school hours must be directly supervised by a person over the age of 14 years. No exceptions."
And "We welcome people using our grounds BUT if you come onto our school grounds, (or your children) out of school hours, no matter the age, you accept that if you or they damage, break or steal things, then you or them are likely to appear on Facebook for identification purposes.
"As well, the image may be published elsewhere. If you don't accept this, do not come onto our grounds."
Social media has become a popular tool for businesses and institutions in a vigilante approach to justice, but Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says it often backfired and can cause more harm than intended.
"This is something we often see go wrong. The false person is accused or the accused person is harmed with consequences that the originator did not want to achieve," Cocker explained.
While he could understand the frustration of people whose properties are being targeted, Cocker said New Zealand didn't want to become a vigilante society.
Chair of Privacy Foundation New Zealand, AUT Associate Professor Gehan Nilendra Gunasekara, said posting CCTV footage of vandalising youth online could be an disproportionate use of imagery open to question under the Privacy Act.
"The Privacy Act was recently updated and tightened, specifically around vulnerable people," Gunasekara said. Principle 4 of the Privacy Act says personal information must be collected fairly and reasonably, particularly those of children.
"Even though there is a warning sign, children might not fully understand the consequences."
While limited disclosure of footage to authorities could be justified to help identify culprits, the school's methods could be questioned if it publicised more images of alleged vandals.
"Social media is not an automatic tool to punish people. It might not have the desired effect and harm these children years later when they are grown up and looking for a job. Once online, it is hard to delete an image."
Fellow AUT Professor of Law Mark Henaghan was "utterly horrified" by the school's actions and added that the children needed to be supported rather than publicly shamed.
The Privacy Commission didn't want to speak specifically about this case but said if "CCTV footage shows criminal offending it should be handed over to Police for investigation".
"There can be risks of misidentification or misrepresentation from vigilante actions to 'name and shame', especially in relation to children and young people. That can end up being quite expensive for the organisation publishing the material."
Additional reporting Julia Czerwonatis