Work van stolen; man on 5 charges

A 19-year-old Dunedin man faces five charges after he allegedly stole a plumber's van, drove it into a power pole, got it stuck in a ditch and drove through a red light at speed while pursued by police yesterday afternoon.

The man was arrested in Macandrew Rd in South Dunedin just before 5pm, about two hours after he allegedly took an Aitken Plumbers Ltd van from Highgate.

Senior Sergeant Steve Aitken said the van was reported stolen, and soon afterwards a member of the public reported seeing it being driven into a power pole in Atkinson St, South Dunedin, before the driver continued towards Prince Albert Rd.

A while later, a tow-truck operator contacted the manager of Aitken Plumbers to report he had towed the van out of a ditch near Portobello.

The manager called police, who went in search of the alleged offender as he travelled back towards South Dunedin, Snr Sgt Aitken said.

The van was located in Macandrew Rd and police initiated a brief pursuit.

''As we were behind it, the van went through a red light on Macandrew Rd at a very unsafe speed and the pursuit was abandoned.

''The vehicle was located a couple of minutes later when we found skid marks on Macandrew Rd and the driver was located near the van about five minutes after that,'' Snr Sgt Aitken said.

The driver was arrested outside the South Dunedin police station and charged with unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, reckless driving, dangerous driving, driving without a licence, and failing to stop for police.

He was to appear in the Dunedin District Court next week.

The manager of Aitken Plumbers, who did not want to be named, said it was the first time a work vehicle had been stolen.

No staff were threatened or injured, and the company was insured, he said.

Last night, he did not know the extent of damage to the vehicle, or whether any equipment had been stolen or damaged.