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Debate erupts after woman's 'beautiful' find in garden: 'Throw it in the bin'

The tribute blew into the resident's yard. Now she wants to return it to the owner.

A “beautiful tribute” to a departed loved one has sparked a debate online after it “found its way” into a New Zealander’s garden.

The woman shared an image of what appears to be a white paper lantern with dozens of handwritten messages on it, explaining it was “for a family member and friend who has passed”.

“Their loved ones have written some beautiful things on it and sent it off into the sky,” she wrote on social media, before explaining her dilemma. “I can not put it in the bin because it is not my place and it is too special!”

The Facebook post of the paper lantern tribute with the messages written on it that the New Zealand woman found in her garden.
A New Zealand woman is trying to get in touch with the owners of a farewell tribute that floated into her garden. Source: Facebook

Taking to Facebook, the woman called on locals in Torbay, on Auckland’s North Shore, to get in touch if they knew anything about it. “If you know who it belongs to and would like it back, please message me,” she said. But it was her next act that shocked those online.

“If you would like me to respectfully dispose of it because you have sent it into the world, I will bury it under a flower in my garden.”

She went on to add that she wouldn’t “feel right” placing it in her rubbish bin but also that the lantern did not “belong” to her. “[I am] not sure how far it has traveled so starting in Torbay first,” she said. “Feel free to share. This belongs with someone important.”

Social media users divided

The woman’s generous act has since been praised on social media. “That’s a very kind person that’s posted this,” one person wrote after the message was shared on Reddit. “Really lovely that they’ve said they would bury it,” another said.

While others questioned why the owner would want it back at all. “Isn’t the point [that] they wrote those things down...to symbolically say goodbye and come to terms with a loved one’s death?” someone asked. “They wrote their messages and let it go, the purpose was served,” added another.

Many people use paper lanterns and balloons as a tribute to farewell loved ones after they pass. Source: Getty Images
Many people use paper lanterns and balloons as a tribute to farewell loved ones after they pass. Source: Getty Images

But the post has also sparked a discussion about the darker side to loved ones’ farewells, with several Reddit users pointing out that releasing items like this into the sky is also considered littering.

“They littered, throw it in the bin,” one person argued. “If they truly cared about their messages they wouldn’t commit it to a piece of meaningless pollution.”

“I would have thought they sent it up expecting it to stay gone. Litterbugs,” another wrote.

Victoria’s tough take on balloon farewells

In recent years, Victoria has clamped down on balloon goodbyes by introducing a $991 fine for anyone caught incorrectly disposing of them in a bid to stop plastic pollution and protect wildlife.

For a series of balloon releases, or if taken to court, penalties could increase to $16,522 for an individual or $82,160 for a company.

“We know that balloons and their attachments are the single deadliest litter item when ingested by seabirds," Zoos Victoria Acting Senior Manager of Conservation Campaigns, Darcie Carruthers, said, adding that “balloons can be fun but they don’t belong outdoors”.

“If we can prevent even a single balloon from entering the marine environment, it could literally save a life.”

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