Seven backpackers visiting one of Hawke's Bay's most popular
and pristine tourist locations were victims of a daylight
theft this week.
The group of young travellers from Taiwan, South Korea,
Japan, Germany and France went swimming at Maraetotara Falls,
halfway between Havelock North and Waimarama, on Wednesday
unaware they would be the targets of brazen thieves.
Frenchman Benoit Thoury said he left the swimming hole about
5pm, after a few hours in the water, to find windows of his
van and a fellow backpacker's car smashed.
The 27-year-old has been living in Hastings for three months
and working on an orchard. He lost his French passport,
credit cards and $200 cash, all of which had been left inside
He said it was his second trip to Maraetotara Falls after
seeing its "beauty" earlier in the year.
"There are many families, children up there. You don't expect
that people would be smashing in windows," said the tourist
who was on his first trip to New Zealand.
The seven travellers have been staying at Nottingley Villa, a
Hastings backpacker facility, for several months, most of
them working on Hawke's Bay orchards during summer.
Nottingley Villa owner Lee Tafford said it has been a
"bountiful season" for thieves with so many break-ins at the
falls, carpeting the carpark in "50 per cent gravel, 50 per
Senior Sergeant Dave Sutherland said the thefts tended to be
"There is a sign up there from the police that says it's a
high crime area, but nothing seems to be done about it ...
"It really annoys me because this sort of stuff is
preventable," he said.
"It's also really sad because you recommend places like that
to visitors. 'Go to Waimarama, have a lovely day and stop by
the falls on the way back for a swim'. You just feel
"They work really hard these kids. Most of them are doing
jobs that don't pay very much and are really hard work; just
for their money to be taken by some thug."
Krista Wu, 28, from Taiwan, lost her camera and photography
equipment during the group's ill-fated visit to the falls
when fellow Taiwanese national Jake Xu, 24, also had his car
broken into as they cooled off from the summer sun.
"I quite like New Zealand. The feeling is people are really
nice compared to my country," said Ms Wu.
"They [offenders] probably think we are tourists and
foreigners and go after our stuff. I won't be leaving
anything valuable in the car any more."
Senior Sergeant Dave Sutherland said several car break-ins
this summer had been reported at Maraetotara Falls.
"It tends to be a seasonal thing. We recommend people lock
their car, don't leave anything valuable in the vehicle and
anything else in your car should be out of sight." He said if
people saw anything suspicious at the tourist spot to phone
police, adding they were seeking a person of interest in
relation to the Maraetotara Falls crime season.
He described the suspect as a male Maori of average height
and build with short hair and aged in his mid-20s.
Police said the area was identified as a location of interest
and one arrest was made last week for theft from the
Maraetotara Falls area.
- Sam Hurley of Hawkes Bay Today