The little hearts of some Auckland tamariki are broken after a shocking theft at their preschool.
This morning as staff at Small Kauri Early Childhood Education Centre in Māngere Bridge went outside to prepare the play area they noticed half of it was missing.
A 3m-long green slide had been ripped out of the ground, and a climbing wall, two picnic tables and other play equipment is missing.
"It's a sad day, our little hearts are breaking," teacher Krista Scelly said.
"Everyone is really disappointed, the children are all really upset and are trying to figure out what is going on and why it has not returned."
The amount of equipment meant it would have involved at least two people, and they would have needed a large vehicle to transport it, Scelly said.
It was not their first burglary either, with Scelly estimating there had been at least 10 this year.
Twice this year they had their hose stolen, which they now had chained up. On other occasions somebody had even lifted the cover of the sandpit to allow their dog to defecate in it.
They were not the only ones in the area to be targeted, with other playcentres nearby also hit by burglaries recently.
Scelly said they kept the gate of the preschool unlocked to allow families to use the playground, but they might need to reconsider that following this burglary.
"We want families in the community to be able to come in and use the equipment, as long as they respect it. Now we feel we may need to start locking the gate."
Scelly said all of the equipment stolen would likely be worth over $5000.
They had insurance but often found it was not worth the hassle of making claims.
"We really just want whoever took the equipment to find their good nature and return it.
"None of the gear is even very new. It is old and loved. The tables were handmade to keep costs down so we can invest more in teachers.
"I know Christmas is a hard time of year, but to take something from children to give to other children, it just does not make sense."
They had reported the incident to police, and Scelly managed to convince some officers to visit the preschool to help explain what had happened.
"The children are all going through working theories of good guy/bad guy stuff. Having the police come visit showed them what happens when people do bad things."
The preschool was calling out to the community to keep an eye out for the items.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said it was a serious issue.
"In my community one of them was set fire to. That's a huge undertaking for a school to replace that. In some cases they're not covered by any form of insurance as well," Hipkins told reporters.
"Some of the playgrounds will have been produced with locally raised funds, school fundraising. So if they're damaged or stolen or burnt then the community has to then raise funding in order to replace it.
"I think people need to let children have their playgrounds," he said.
Items stolen: green slide, yellow swinging handle bars, wooden hanging bag, two brown children's picnic tables, plywood climbing wall with green plastic grips.
Anyone who has seen any of the items can contact the centre on 09 636 0644.