Warn­ing for fruit thieves

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - TOM CARNEGIE

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.

TOM CARNEGIE/FAIR­FAX NZ

John Bag­nall says about 40 kilo­grams worth of peaches were taken from a tree in his back­yard.

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