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Senior Constable Gary Mahuika, of Oamaru, said the theft from the second floor of the former Stringer and Co building at the corner of Thames and Eden Sts could have been a targeted operation.
The building was currently under wraps as it is being converted into a 15-room boutique luxury accommodation and art gallery.
The theft was discovered by construction workers as they arrived for work about 7am yesterday.
"The building community in Oamaru is quite insular, where everyone knows someone, so I imagine those tools would be hard to get rid of locally," Snr Const Mahuika said.
"I think the offender has basically been reliant on the fact that, because of the scaffolding and the plastic — it’s sealed — they can remain in the building for a period of time and probably collect every tool that’s available to be picked up.
"They’ve had a bit of time to grab things and have done a pretty comprehensive job of taking everything that was available."
The "mystery" for police when they arrived shortly after the theft was reported about 8.30am, was how the stolen items were removed from the building.
But police were now reviewing security footage supplied by area businesses that could offer some information. A spokeswoman for Clearcut Building said the theft had been disappointing, but only resulted in a minor setback for the project as the crews were able to obtain tools and were back at work later in the day.
The tools — including Makita, Bosch, Milwaukee and Paslode electric drills, nail guns, skill saws, screw guns, and laser levels — were insured.