Someone in Lower Hutt is building themselves a lovely garden - at the expense of a local primary school.
Gardening equipment has been disappearing from Naenae Primary School over the lockdown, with one person even trying to dig up a feijoa tree on the basis they thought it was a community garden.
Principal Murray Bootten said a compost bin, a worm farm, some plants and more compost had all been swiped from the school's garden over the past couple of months.
"It's a 'taking food out of the baby's mouth' type of thing," he told the Herald.
"It's frustrating when we've spent a long, long time building up our grounds to be presentable . . . and to display to the community what is possible within a school."
He said the thief or thieves had taken the equipment "without any thought for the children of the school".
It would be "great" if the culprit fronted up and came back to help restore the garden, he said.
"If they were so keen on gardening they could come in and give a hand to the gardening, make something up to the children that way."
But Bootten did not expect that to happen, saying they had likely done "a runner" and would "stay as far away as possible".
Recently a board member who mows the school's lawns came across a theft in action.
"[They] saw them and spoke to the person, who said 'oh but it's a community garden and I want a feijoa tree.'"
Bootten said many people had come through over the lockdown and helped themselves to feijoas, which was not an issue because they would otherwise have rotted on the ground.
But he reiterated the garden was not actually a community garden.
Over the years when fruit and vegetables went missing, there was consolation in the fact somebody was getting something to eat. When people took equipment or whole plants, however, it was a different story.
"Fine if they allow the plants to grown and then take some of the vegetables or the fruit, but leave some for others."
The recent thefts of composting materials indicated someone was building a garden for themselves at home, Bootten said.
"They could have ordered them online but for some reason they felt it was easier to come in and take it from the school."
The school has not reported the thefts to police, because officers had "enough to deal with" at the moment, he said.
The school shared a post on Facebook, asking locals to keep an eye on the school and garden.
"We do not mind school whānau having some of the vegetables and fruit, but the general public that just takes with no thought to the children and school is not on."