An estimated 800kg of Fortune plums, a heritage and sprayfree variety have disappeared overnight from a small family-run heritage orchard on Whelans Rd in Levin.

Owner Diane Ward, who has owned the property for the past year, was looking forward to her first harvest, destined for New World Levin. Having checked the trees on Tuesday she was ready to pick on Thursday only to be amazed, then shocked, at the sight of nothing but empty trees.

Part of Diane Ward's heritage orchard.
Part of Diane Ward's heritage orchard.

"There is absolutely nothing left, apart from a handful of unripe plums of that variety. They knew what they were doing and cleaned us out. Normally there are plums on the ground, either dropped during picking or eaten by the birds, but there was nothing at all," she said.

She reckons they came in through the hedges at the far corner of her property in the middle of the night.

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"No-one has seen or heard anything, so it must have been during the night.

Plum thieves knew what they were doing. This ripe plum, of a different variety than the ones taken, is not in huge demand, so was left alone.
Plum thieves knew what they were doing. This ripe plum, of a different variety than the ones taken, is not in huge demand, so was left alone.

"It would have been a team effort too with 20 trees fully laden being picked clean."

The orchard isn't visible from the road as it is hidden behind huge hedges, so she thinks at least one person involved in the theft was familiar with the place.

"We spent a lot of time tidying up the orchard, the grass was quite high when we bought it and it took a long time to get it back to manageable length."

Ward, a potter, moved to Levin from Paraparaumu and the property got her attention because of the amenities such as a big shed as well as a cork tree.

This is a baby Fortune plum. Fully ripe plums of this variety are the size of a large apple.
This is a baby Fortune plum. Fully ripe plums of this variety are the size of a large apple.

"Initially I didn't even look at the house. I thought the place was perfect for me and when I saw that cork tree, I was sold. My kids enquired whether the property had a house on it because in my mind it wasn't important. I didn't even look at the house."

She's informed the police but isn't holding out any hope of retrieving her plums.