A huge swastika left on the school field, their Māori flag was stolen and thousands of dollars worth of damage caused by vandals has Moturoa Primary School principal questioning if the vandalism was racially motivated.
Although it could not be definitely defined as a racist attack.
Principal Delwyn Riding says, “It feels different to vandalism… it’s hard to be open minded and not form a judgment.”
The swastika measuring approximately 20m x 20m is believed to be constructed between late Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. It was made by used tyres already on the school premises and were being used by the school and the Corrections Department to build a wall as part of their school environmental sustainability project.
Principal Riding expressed her disbelief and shock at the unsettling discovery.
“How could that happen? So gutless to do it in the dark of night, I would like to talk to them and see what their motivation was,” says Riding.
There was damage to some of the school buildings including the school’s TV antenna which was ripped from the roof and large murals ripped from their settings and thrown into the school pool.
Riding says the vandals were able to access the roof through scaffolding for ongoing maintenance at the school. Riding also believes it’s likely there is more than one suspect due to the nature of the damage.
Upon discovery of the inflammatory Nazi symbol and subsequent vandalism the school notified New Plymouth Police who have since launched an investigation.
“They were brilliant, the detective helped take the murals out of the pool and she helped repair doors,” says Riding.
The school has received messages of support from all throughout the country. The tight-knit school community have also come together with a parent who is an electrician coming forward offering to repair and replace the school's aerial free of charge.
Riding says the school also prides itself on its strong links to Māori culture and history. She says the Māori flag which flew alongside the New Zealand flag was a reflection of the importance of kotahitanga / togetherness and whānau at the school.
Located in the western suburb of Moturoa, New Plymouth, the school has a role of 102 students, 40% of whom are Māori, many having strong links to local iwi Te Āti Awa and connections to Parihaka.
Riding says, "The kids didn’t notice it and before you knew it they were already playing in the tyres and making a new pattern. Kids they are innocent and oblivious.”
Despite the disturbing incident the school community still feels safe "it would take more than that to create divisions here,” says Riding.
Sergeant Kim Vollmer of the New Plymouth Police has asked if anyone has information in relation to the vandalism to please contact New Plymouth Police on 06 759 5500.