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It was later discovered by garden staff in nearby Lindsay Creek.
''Unfortunately, it has suffered considerable damage. It's a real shame and it's very disappointing,'' event convener Peter Begg said yesterday.
''We all do this voluntarily and that sign is our main advertising. It's seen by thousands of motorists and pedestrians in the area.
''It wasn't just pulled off. It was unbolted and taken away and thrown in the creek. We simply don't have the resources to make repairs and put it back up again in in the short time before Sunday, so we will have to go without it.''
The theft was ''particularly disappointing'' as the charity event this year was in support of CCS Disability Action Otago, Mr Begg said.
''They're affecting the whole community. We're appealing to whoever took it to think hard about the effect this has on CCS Disability Otago and the many families they look after.''
''Lark in the Park'', which will be held from 11am to 4pm, is part of the 2013 Dunedin summer programme and the Dunedin Botanic Garden 150th anniversary celebrations. Entry is free.