Warning for fruit thieves
Sticky fingered thieves are stripping fruit trees bare in Auckland.
John Bagnall, who rents in the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington, said someone had taken every piece of fruit from a peach tree in his backyard.
While he was not worried about the missing fruit, he was concerned about the health of those who consumed the peaches because they were taken from a tree growing in lead- contaminated soil.
He estimated about 40 kilograms, or up to 400 pieces of fruit had been stolen - and he’s not the only one in the area that had been targeted by fruit thieves.
Whoever took the fruit would likely be looking to sell it, Bagnall said.
‘‘It is far too much fruit for one family, the only viable option is that it would be for sale,’’ Bagnall said.
The idea of the fruit being sold worried Bagnall as the soil in his backyard was contaminated.
In 2010 Bagnall discovered chemicals from contaminated soil may have been leaching into vegetables growing in his backyard.
The then-Auckland City Council tested several sites on the property and found that there were high levels of lead in the backyard that posed ‘‘a potential significant risk to health’’.
Bagnall’s landlord had the backyard capped with concrete, but a peach and mandarin tree growing beside the property’s boundary remained.
Bagnall went on the website neighbourly.co.nz to see if any neighbours had also been struck by a fruit thief.
To his surprise there was already a post where several other east Auckland residents had reported fruit being stolen.
University of Canterbury toxicologist professor Ian Shaw said fruit growing in lead contaminated soil could absorb the chemical into its fruit.
‘‘Usually, but not always, the levels in the fruit would be low,’’ Shaw said.
Shaw said he would be worried if a person was eating a large quantity of Bagnall’s peaches.
‘‘If a person was feeding them to their kids every day then I would be worried.
‘‘But if they were being sold at a market and were being eating in small amounts then there is less cause for concern,’’ Shaw said.
Bagnall said he had reported the incident to the police.
John Bagnall says about 40 kilograms worth of peaches were taken from a tree in his backyard.