Where does airport lost property go? Bunny and items find new Auckland homes

Airport lost property items multiply like rabbits.

Thousands of items are handed in across the country every year. Objects unintentionally separated from their owners in transit, you might have accidentally left one or two items to their safekeeping. But what happens when airport lost property can’t find an owner?

The ME Family Services centre in South Auckland has made its mission finding use for unclaimed items “gone for good”, rehousing items with the help of Aucklanders like six-year-old Eva – who has fostered over 20 stuffed animals, so far.

It’s almost 12 months since international airspace was shut to all but New Zealand citizens. In this time air traffic shrank from 13 million annual passenger movements to a trickle of mostly domestic flights.

It may be some reassurance to know that flyers are still in ‘holiday mode’, just as prone to leaving things behind.

Just last month, the prime minister Jacinda Ardern helped spark a hunt for the owners of ‘Wink’, a child’s stuffed toy left at Hamilton Airport. The grateful owners were quickly identified after the rabbit appeared in a special plea from the PM’s Instagram account:

“I think everyone who has a little person in their lives will know how important these precious things can be, so maybe you can help us find whoever ‘Wink’ belongs to?”


A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

However Wink is hardly the only stuffed animal lost in transit. Not two months earlier Auckland Airport was also trying to track down the owner of a stuffed bunny.

“We have thousands of lost items handed in every year, and some are very special,” said Auckland Airport’s lost property manager Kelvin Jiang, to whom the bunny was handed over on November 10.

This cuddly bunny got split up from their travel buddy in the domestic terminal last month – and we’d love to reunite…

In spite of a social media campaign aiming to get Bunny back home for Christmas, the 90-day retaining period is almost elapsed without an owner coming forward. However, there is a positive ending to the story.

For the past four years the Manaaki Tangata of ME Family Services have been working with Auckland Airport to re-home lost property.

On top of running upcycling and recycling, the centre’s resource recovery therapist Georgina Kelly-Ngatoko helps link items with new owners.

“Since having the Auckland Airport contract with lost property we have been able to support our families in the community with these goodies,” says Georgina.

Having built an extensive network over 25 years, the centre has been able to find new users for baby-strollers (so many strollers), sports gear and electronics.

The programme has been able to kit-out school camps with equipment and shelters for Te Puea Marae’s homeless mission.

It has become an valuable resource for the local community.

“They can trade in their clothing, food,” says Georgina “also koha.”

It was through the upcycling programme that the lost toy finally found a new home with Eva.

“I saw the story about the rabbit at Auckland airport and we volunteered to look after it,” said Eva’s mum, Rachel.

Eva was finally united with the rabbit yesterday, after the lifting of Auckland’s local restrictions. The rabbit, who has been renamed “Cleo”, will join a collection of lost toys.

Eva has rehomed over 20 stuffed animals from second hand stores and lost property sales.”She has probably another 10-15 more bunny’s. They each have a name, however it can get a bit confusing” said Rachel.

Her daughter began volunteering to “look after” lost toys reported on their local community Facebook page, and now has many stuffed animals in her care.

“She will be hoping very much its owner is not found,” says Rachel, who works as a travel agent.

The ME Family Services currently rehomes property from eight Auckland businesses including hotels, rental companies and the airport. The programme keeps a massive 14 tonnes of valuable goods out of landfills each year.

Although the volume of lost property from has shrunk since last year, the centre still gains new deliveries almost weekly.

For more details visit mefsc.org.nz

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