A storm tore through Mercia Yates' Koutū property last Wednesday and her home, filled to the brim with sentimental pictures, keepsakes and artworks, was turned upside down. A photo of her late mother and aunt had fallen to the ground and the taonga jewellery she inherited from her mother was one of the many things missing. The back door was kicked in, two windows smashed and the garage broken into - leaving a strong woman with a broken heart.
Two windows and a heart shattered last Wednesday.
Precious taonga passed down from her late mother was stolen from Rotorua council candidate Mercia Yates and has left her feeling broken and "violated".
"I thought I was all good until yesterday and I just kept breaking down . . . it's absolutely gut-wrenching."
Last Wednesday, Yates got home around 5pm from working in Taupō, a day she was meant to be in Rotorua.
It was a wet day and the house was cold, unusually so, and she soon realised the back door was open.
"I thought, wow, it must have been a huge gust of wind," she said.
Downstairs, though messy, was intact but as she worked her way through her home and upstairs, she realised the storm she believed had torn through her house was actually of the human kind.
"Everything was opened, pulled out, everything tipped over, everywhere. It's the personal invasion and the vulnerability."
She supplied a two-page list of what was stolen to police, including jewellery, small gadgets, speakers, her passport "and random stuff".
"They took sentimental items of mine that will never be replaced . . . I'll never get made what was lost."
But the theft of jewellery which belonged to her late mother has been the most distressing.
Her mother died when she was 15 and Yates inherited her jewellery, some of which she had passed on to her own daughter.
It was this taonga which now belonged to her daughter that was stolen, and was the only taonga her daughter had of her grandmother.
"This isn't just something that affected me on Wednesday night, this is something I will carry for the rest of my life."
One of the worst parts was seeing how upset it had made her daughter.
A duvet was also stolen which she believed was used to put everything in.
Her truck was taken, the keys found by the perpetrators in one of her drawers, and found the next day on Mountain Rd at the entrance to Aorangi Peak, stripped of all contents.
She said it was clear the house had been scoped out, and with a rise in burglaries and car thefts in the area, it was an issue throughout the community.
"It's not just happened to me, I'm not the only that's been violated.
"They're targeting all ages, races . . . and they're brazen enough to do it during the day."
She did not believe the thefts had anything to do with her electoral campaign.
"It's proving to be not as safe as we would like it to be."
But the support from the community was something of a silver-lining. Yates said kind words and offerings of help had made the difficult time easier.
Acting area commander inspector Brendan Keenan said Rotorua communities were experiencing an increase in thefts and residential burglaries.
Police were investigating Yates' case which included forensic evidence that was available from the home.
Potential suspects and witnesses were being investigated.
He said it was a timely reminder that Rotorua was experiencing an increase in unlawful taking and dwelling burglaries.
"We, therefore, encourage our communities to be extra careful with securing and locking their property, not having valuables on display and form neighbour watch groups," Keenan said.
"Also, do not hesitate to report suspicious behaviour of youths that are seen out-of-place or truanting."
He said police were aware Koutū community was a proactive community within themselves in keeping their streets safe, including a close relationship with Neighbourhood Support.