Community spirit alive in Franklin

When Waiuku’s Bryan Millar returned to work on Tuesday 18 April following his Easter break with family, the last thing he expected was to see his Pioneers Wooden Toys’ workshop ransacked.

An estimated $20,000 worth of workshop machinery and power tools had been stolen over the Easter weekend.

It is not the disappointment of losing his livelihood that Bryan wants to share. Instead it is of the community spirit and support that he has received since he uploaded a post to Facebook about the burglary.

He uploaded photos of his workshop on Wednesday 19 April, which have now been shared more than 800 times all over New Zealand.

“There has been an outpouring of empathy and offers for help until the insurance comes through,” Bryan says.  “One guy, originally from Waiuku but living in Wellington, is driving up with some tools in his truck for me.”

“The community have been incredible. There are some real standout people who have come to my aid,” he says.

Dave and Larraine Pita are a perfect example. Dave, a retired cabinet maker, and his wife Larraine reached out to Bryan.

“Dave has had some tools for 45 years, and he wanted to give them to me. These things you can’t put a dollar value on,” Bryan says.  In return for Dave’s tools, Bryan will pick Dave up and bring him to the workshop where they can “just hang out and have a cup of tea.”

Bryan also credits Counties Locksmiths who responded quickly and compassionately to his situation. Even more astounding for Bryan was an offer from Jody from Samplonius Drum Company who, with his wife Katherine, offered up his workshop for Byran to catch up on orders.

“I feel overwhelmed,” Bryan says about all the positive support. “It’s restored my faith in humankind, good people and the community.”

Bryan says it was an emotional first 12 hours after the burglary. “This support is the reason I put one foot in front of the other.”

He also encouraged other business owners to make the most of SNAP, an initiative by New Zealand Police to prevent burglary and property offending, by registering important possessions with their serial numbers. This can be done at

While Bryan only took over the business two years ago, it has been around for years and despite the setback, has no plans of slowing down.

“We’ve been around for 35 years and we’ll be around for at least another 35.”

Bryan says making toys is his passion. “It’s about creating joy. When I deliver toys to kindergartens, the kids think I’m Santa. You can’t beat that feeling.”