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Mexican tourist Roberto Arteaga says he plans to continue hitchhiking despite being robbed at gunpoint in northern Hawkes Bay this week.
The 30-year-old lawyer from Mexico City has been made an honorary citizen of Wairoa by the town's mayor, Craig Little, after three men took his belongings at gunpoint on State Highway 2 near Raupunga on Monday.
Mr Arteaga described his honorary citizenship as a ‘‘beautiful present” and a ‘‘big surprise”.
He said he'd enjoyed his time with the Little family, which included a walk around Lake Waikaremoana yesterday afternoon.
‘‘One of the things I like about the people from New Zealand is they make you feel really comfortable in their country,” Mr Arteaga said. He's been in the country for about a year and travelled the South and North Islands, often hitchhiking.
He was due to leave for Australia in a week and planned to set off toward the Coromandel Peninsula today.
He said he hadn't been put off hitchhiking.
‘‘It's one of the best ways to have more contact with the local people,” he said.
Mr Arteaga said the incident hadn't changed his perception of New Zealand, which he described as ‘‘a beautiful country with beautiful people”.
‘‘I really love New Zealand.”
After hearing about Mr Arteaga's ordeal on the radio, Mr Little, Wairoa's mayor invited the tourist to stay at his family farm for two nights.
Mr Little also made Mr Arteaga an honorary citizen yesterday morning. The presentation included the gifting of a Wairoa tie and cufflinks, $100 cash out of the mayor's fund, and a book about the town.
Asked if he would Robbed hitchhiker honoured
recommend New Zealand to his friends, Mr Arteaga responded ‘‘Of course. 100 per cent.”
He had yet to tell his family about the robbery.
Mr Little, who described Mr Arteaga as ‘‘an incredible guy” said he'd been heartened by Wairoa's response to Monday's incident. ‘‘The people of Wairoa are absolutely disappointed it's happened to him. It's not what Wairoa is about.”
A police representative said three men, charged with aggravated robbery, would appear in the Gisborne District Court today in relation to the armed hold-up of Mr Arteaga.
Police from Wairoa and Gisborne searched two Raupunga properties yesterday morning and arrested three males aged 17, 19 and 22. Police found the vehicle used in the robbery as well as some of the tourist's property.
A fourth man, aged 22, was arrested on an unrelated matter.
Sergeant Mike O'Brien said several items belonging to Mr Arteaga had not yet been found.
Mr Arteaga said he was ‘‘really satisfied” with the police handling of the incident. He was relieved the police had recovered his Swiss army knife.
‘‘It was a present and it's quite special to me,” the visitor said. He was still missing his camera, cellphone and some clothes.
Mr O'Brien said police wanted to hear from anyone who had any information about the items or the robbery.
Police also wanted to thank members of the public who had already provided information which led to the arrests of the three men yesterday.
Anyone with information could contact Wairoa Police on (06) 8388345, or information could be given anonymously to the Crimestoppers line.