Police are making inquiries after a man was seen "surreptitiously" taking photos of people, including children, at a busy Hamilton shopping centre.
It was Emma Lucas' three children - all aged 5 and under - who were at the centre of the man's lens while they were busy eating their McDonald's at The Base Shopping Centre foodcourt yesterday.
Lucas, of Cambridge, told the Herald she was completely oblivious to the man - described as being aged in his 50s wearing a black hat - taking photos and was later shocked to discover that he is legally allowed to do so without their consent.
She posted about the incident on her Facebook page, which has since been shared far and wide, amassing further shock and horror by other parents.
She wrote how after getting food for her children and dishing it out she was too preoccupied to notice a man taking photos.
Her interest was piqued when a man sitting behind her began to get "irate" at one of the cleaning ladies, asking her to call security.
The man, who she would later discover was a former private investigator, told her that he had watched the man take photos and video of her children, and other children, in the food court.
"He said they had been watching him. He had this SLR camera around his neck, down on his chest ... but they could see the screen on it, so it must have had a flip screen.
"The way that he was angling his body it was very obvious that he was taking footage, to them."
The man called police as security arrived and spoke to the man.
She then approached security who confirmed they had seen "lots and lots of photos" both of the mall in general, people, families, children but also her children.
"I confirmed with her, I said 'did you see photos of my children on there' and she said 'yes'."
She was then told the man had been "told off" and escorted off the premises before police arrived.
She has laid a complaint with police and been in touch with shopping centre management, who confirmed they had found CCTV footage of the man.
Police today confirmed to the Herald they would be making "initial inquiries".
Lucas said while her family was "slightly alternative", consent was a "huge" factor in everything they did.
"We're a slightly alternative family in that we go to quite a few festivals that are very big on the consent culture anyway, so the consent thing is a huge thing, even when it comes down to media exposure.
"I didn't actually realise that what this person was doing yesterday was actually not against the law."
She said she found the current law around people having the ability to take photos of strangers in public places "a bit conflicting".
According to the NZ Police website, it was "generally lawful" to take photos without consent but not if they people were in a place where they would expect privacy, it would have the potential to stop their enjoyment of the same place or they had no legitimate reason for taking the photos.
"If you took a poll of every single family in that food court and asked them if it was okay for a middle-aged, 50-year-old, man to take surreptitious photos of their children I can almost hands-down say that every single family would say 'no'."
Lucas was thankful to the private investigator and his wife for not only noticing the man's behaviour but bringing it to her attention and helping follow it up.
"It's nice to know that there are people like that out there."
Lucas said the incident itself was surreal, and that it was something that she would read about happening to someone else, and not her family eating McDonald's in a busy mall.
She was surprised by the lack of powers security staff had, describing them "as basically cardboard cut outs".
"They can't touch a person, they can't apprehend a person, they can't go through a person's belongings, they can't do actually anything without permission. So in some respects, the [security] lady was lucky that he did show her the camera."
She said it was easy to jump to "insidious" thoughts about whether the man was connected to any child pornography ring, however he could also just be someone who didn't have any "social awareness" and just enjoyed taking photos.
For now, though, she said they would all sit down as a family and discuss personal safety.
"I'm not a helicopter parent by any means so it's been a bit of a shock for me, because I go oh wow, we tend to proffer our kids being quite comfortable. We're the complete opposite of stranger danger in our house.
"We probably need to have a few conversations around that issue of safety."
Simon Betts, The Base Shopping Centre manager, confirmed the incident took place and that the photos were deleted.
"Upon being notified of the activity our security staff approached the man and asked him to delete the photos, overseeing the process as he did so.
"While the man refused to provide his name we were able to identify his car registration and passed this to police, along with his description and details of the incident.
"We're unable to forcibly detain people, so in instances such as this our focus is on securing the required information (including CCTV footage if appropriate) and advising the police so they can act on it, if they feel it's necessary."