Gar­den raid leaves vic­tim in fear

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Denise Piper

A Man­gonui pen­sioner is now liv­ing in fear for her safety af­ter bromeliad-lov­ing thieves raided her Mill Bay gar­den.

The sad­dest thing, Va­lerie Chur­chouse said, was that there had been no need to steal them.

“I would’ve loved to give them to them; if you’ve got ex­cess you love to give it away,” she said.

Now she was con­sid­er­ing in­stalling se­cu­rity cam­eras to pro­tect her­self.

Ms Chur­chouse ad­mit­ted she had not been in her gar­den a lot over sum­mer due to the in­tense heat, but one day, ad­mir­ing it from her kitchen, she no­ticed there was a gap. Some bromeliad pups were miss­ing, closer in­spec­tion re­veal­ing they had been cut off at the stem.

The sit­u­a­tion got “worse and worse” when she looked around her whole sec­tion. The gar­den, which was usu­ally wallto-wall bromeli­ads, was miss­ing many dozens of plants, in­clud­ing whole pots.

The theft had been com­mit­ted me­thod­i­cally, she said, by some­one who ob­vi­ously knew about bromeli­ads.

“Peo­ple who didn’t know what they were do­ing would just pull them off, and then they wouldn’t grow: they’ve got to have a base so they sprout roots.”

Ms Chur­chouse, who works part-time as a per­sonal carer and is a reg­u­lar vol­un­teer for the SPCA, has been devel­op­ing her gar­den for more than 20 years, get­ting into bromeli­ads on the sug­ges­tion of a friend as a so­lu­tion for her steep clay site. She saved her money to buy plants ev­ery fort­night.

“All I’ve got is my two cats and this,” she said, point­ing to her gar­den.

“Fancy tak­ing my plants. It’s like tak­ing my right arm.”

She wouldn’t say how many plants had been taken, but they were worth up to $50 each. Her big­gest con­cern, how­ever, was that some­one was watch­ing her move­ments.

PIC­TURES/DENISE PIPER

Va­lerie Chur­chouse is now think­ing about in­stalling se­cu­rity cam­eras as a de­ter­rent to in­trud­ers. INSET: Some of the stolen bromeli­ads were chopped off at the stem, by some­one who knew what they were do­ing.

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