Auckland childcare centre whose playground was stolen gets heart-warming gift from Mount Albert Grammar

Luke Appleby
Source: 1News

A South Auckland childcare centre which had a large amount of playground equipment stolen just before Christmas last year has received an incredible gift from Mount Albert Grammar School students and staff.

Small Kauri Early Childhood Centre in Māngere Bridge was targeted by thieves last December, with several pieces of equipment stolen - including a slide which was dug right out of the ground.

Teaching team leader Linda Petrenko was heartbroken to discover the theft, saying it had left the kids struggling to understand why they had been victimised.

"It's a strange thing, really, that you take from a place that provides for children," she said.

But the kids and staff alike were left beaming yesterday after a project initiated by Mount Albert Grammar School came to fruition.

Brian Murphy, Head of Faculty at the school's technology department, heard of the theft after moving to Auckland and looking into a childcare centre for his daughter, who now attends Small Kauri.

Brian Murphy, Head of Faculty at the Mount Albert Grammar School's technology department.

He was impressed with the way the centre had built much of their own equipment, and wanted to find a way to do something special for them.

"I wanted to do something to give back to the community," Mr Murphy said.

"I gave the kids a brief - how can they build a product that will enhance people's lives or enhance the community?"

Year 13 students Senio Amaama Sue and Matt Paul were tasked with building a large wooden playfort for Small Kauri as part of a Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation unit standard.

Mount Albert Grammar School pupils Matt Paul, left, and Senio Amaama Sue.

"I thought I was going to be building a chair or something small," Senio said, "but then Brian said we're actually going to build something bigger - a kid's fort.

"We achieved something great - we're actually going to help a community, a school, and kids will have fun with it."

Matt, who plans to go into the building trade after college, said "I feel proud, yeah - I accomplished something that I never thought I was going to do".

Pauling Engineering, which does a lot of work for Mount Albert Grammar School, was happy to lend a hand transporting the fort and moving it into place.

The team from Pauling Engineering on their way.

Some staff at Small Kauri were aware the fort was coming, but Ms Petrenko was pleasantly surprised.

"Suddenly I was hearing a beeping noise and the truck was here and we saw our wonderful dad arrive with this piece of equipment and it's mind-blowing," Ms Petrenko said.

Linda reacts as she realised what's on the back of the truck.

"It's given me a heart feeling actually.

"For the last week I have had worries about the fact that the year is gone and it was a possibility that the theft that happened last year could happen again.

"This has kind of consolidated that whole idea that, actually, the community didn't forget that we had a hard time with our stuff stolen.

"When the community comes around, you realise how much you actually have - the people that we have in our lives, the ones who keep us on the straight and narrow, the ones who help us out are the things that we'll remember - and the kids will remember.

"They'll be able to re-visit the sad time that we had and actually see that good things happen - we live in a great place, people are good, the world is good."

The fort installed at Small Kauri.

News tip or more information? Email Luke Appleby or