Vandalism has left the playground at Arataki School blocked off with hazard tape after it was left littered with glass - the most recent hit in a string of attacks.

Arataki School principal Shelley Blakey said vandals had pushed broken glass into the wood chips on the base of the playground.

This meant the facility was unsafe to use and the wood chip would need to be emptied and replaced at a cost to the school.

But that is not all the trouble to have befallen Arataki School - the thieves broke into the canteen on December 1 to steal food and fires had been started on the grounds on November 18.


CCTV footage showed that vandals had lit more than one fire at the decile three school.

She said the school was fortunate a member of the public had seen the fire and put it out, which prevented other property being damaged.

"We were really lucky - else we might have lost the whole playground," said Blakey.

Blakey said the vandals were around intermediate or early college age.

The burglars stole food including chocolate biscuits and ice cream from the school which was set to be used in a celebration for the students.

"It may seem like nothing, but that was for our children to celebrate our year."

She called the CCTV footage of the break-in "disturbing".

"It was the group mentality ... they kept on going at the door and egging each other on. The amount of kids that were there, not all participating but knowing it was happening, was really disappointing."


While Blakey was not certain how much the clean-up would cost in total, she said it would be a "significant" sum.

The school gets funding for dealing with vandalism but Blakey said it would not be enough to cover the cost of emptying and replacing all of the wood chip.

However, the main cost was the time that would be needed to fix the situation - energy that should be poured into the students, Blakey said.

It was also a "slap in the face for the community" who regularly used the space on the weekends.

"They have to walk into rubbish and ... alcohol bottles being left around.

"It drives us insane."

In the lead-up to the vandalism the school caretaker had mentioned rubbish, including blankets, clothing and condoms, was being left around the school playground, Blakey said.

Vandalism was not a regular issue, she said, but it had been growing progressively worse in the last month.

Blakey said the school was well-supported by the community, and she is sure people will be extra vigilant around the area.

Small fires were lit and broken bottles were found in the school playground at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak
Small fires were lit and broken bottles were found in the school playground at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak

Arataki School board member and parent Charlotte Yates discovered the fire damage when she took her children down to the playground on the weekend a couple of weeks ago.

She immediately emailed Blakey to notify her of the damage.

Yates said she was upset about the vandalism.

"[I felt] disappointment for what the means for the kids."

A police spokesperson said police received word of the break-in and located some young people of interest in the area. No arrests were made and police have continued to investigate.

On the topic of vandalism, Tauranga City Council's community development advisor Paul Po told the Bay of Plenty Times that graffiti vandalism was a crime that affects the whole community. He said the council recommended the community reported any vandalism to the police and cleaned it up as soon as possible.

Vandalism at Arataki School
December 2018: Canteen broken into and food stolen, broken glass found in playground woodchip
November 2018: Playground damaged by small fire
November 2017: Fires service called to fire lit outside a building