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Frog theft dismays reserve volunteers

Volunteers are reeling after a beloved frog figurine and several toy aeroplanes were stolen from the Manuka Reserve in Masterton last month.

The brazen thefts were discovered by Liz Waddington, who lives adjacent to the public native plant reserve and was a key leader of the community project to create it in Lansdowne 25 years ago.

The metal frog, depicted as playing a drum alongside a group of five other frogs, is about 60cm tall and was mounted on a totara post, which was screwed into the ground.

The thief – or thieves – used a chainsaw to hack it from its post in broad daylight on February 20.

Because it was a Tuesday, the chainsaw noise was not noticed among the usual neighbourhood sounds, Waddington told Midweek.

“If there’s noise in the reserve at night, or on the weekend, I’m up there like a shot,” she said.

The group of frogs, shown playing instruments and singing, was donated to the reserve about six months ago and the metal critters were painted green before being installed beside a path in the Enchanted Forest section.

Anger over the frog’s theft turned to dismay, when just a few days later, some model aeroplanes used to decorate the reserve’s miniature Hood Aerodrome were also swiped – including one toy aircraft sitting in a tree.

Waddington, who walks through the reserve regularly and who, with fellow volunteers, has planted “thousands and thousands of trees” there, said the frog and aeroplanes could be returned “no questions asked”.

“We don’t need to know who stole them,” she said. “We’d just like them back, as they’re extra special. Especially the frog, who is part of a group.”

Waddington and neighbour Lesley Marsh developed the Enchanted Forest for families, with magical surprises. Volunteers spot decorations in second hand shops and buy them to place among the native plants.

“The reserve is used by lots of families and dog walkers and we encourage people to bring special things to leave for others to enjoy,” Waddington said.

“Things do get stolen – we always lose a few decorations at Christmas.”

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