Pair face rustling charges

Two men are to appear in court next month on joint charges in relation to the alleged theft of stock and farming equipment worth nearly $250,000 from a farm near Wanaka.

A 27-year-old Wanaka man and a 36-year-old former Wanaka man, now living in Motueka, will appear in the Queenstown District Court on January 30 on joint charges relating to the theft of deer, sheep and other farming-related property valued at more than $240,000. The charges have been laid as part of an ongoing investigation.

Detective Dave Evans, of Wanaka, said it appeared the alleged thefts, from a rural property at Mt Barker, occurred over a period of about 2 years from May 2009 until August 2011.

Police began an investigation in September this year after a local farmer raised concerns.

The number of deer involved is alleged to exceed 600 and the number of sheep about 120.

Det Evans said the charges related to only one farm near Wanaka, although some of the animals alleged to have been stolen belonged to two neighbouring farmers.

Despite the forthcoming court appearances, the investigation was "by no means complete", Det Evans said.

He declined to say whether other people would be charged in relation to the investigation.

The investigation showed no link between the two men and other alleged stock thefts in Central Otago or further afield, Det Evans said.

Such thefts included about 200 in-lamb merino ewes, worth about $40,000, from Ribbonwood Station at Omarama in late September; about 160 merino wethers, worth about $13,000, from Carrick Station in the Nevis Valley in August; and about 1800 merino ewes and an unknown number of lambs, worth about $130,000, from a Queensberry farm block at the end of 2007.

"Police have reviewed other stock theft files from our area as part of this investigation and reiterate that they can find no link between these men and those thefts. Other alleged stock thefts therefore remain unresolved."

Lake Hawea farmer Richard Burdon said the farming community was relieved the police had been able to make progress on the investigation.

"This latest stock rustling is just a reminder for farmers to be vigilant, work together, be aware of their stock grazing and tallies." Mt Barker resident and former farmer Sylvia Morris agreed the charges would be a great relief to the farming community.

"There's been rumours flying round the district for ages," Mrs Morris said. "I'm sure everybody would be very relieved to have it cleared up."

Federated Farmers of New Zealand Otago president Michael Lord also said it would be good to put an end to the speculation.

"If it's taken even two toerags out of the picture, if there's another 22 out there they're on notice that the police are working on this case ..."

Mr Lord said it was pleasing the police had made progress on the investigation.

"We do really appreciate what the police do. If you go on holiday you can lock your house or lock your garage ... with a farm it's just not that simple."


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