Rustlers raise kaumatua's ire

By Sam Hurley

Sheep used for Ruahapia Marae tangi have been targeted by rustlers, forcing kaumatua to "count the sheep again" and deal with the ongoing problem plaguing their paddocks.

Six sheep were found missing on Sunday morning by Gordon Paku and Te Reo Haronga at their grazing property by the Rangitane and Johnston Way intersection.

"I came in and one of the lambs still had one of its legs tied up with string," said Mr Paku.

A former chef at the marae and a war veteran, Mr Paku said the 30 sheep he had were used for whanau when they hit a rough patch after his grandfather told him 'You can tell the mana of a man by how much food is at a tangi'.

"We go and get some sheep for when whanau and tangi fall on tough times - they will have some meat, we give it to them for free," he said. "We are not looking to make a profit of them, once they fatten up a bit they get stolen - it hurts more when we have to pay $80 or $90 for them."

He said the threat of rustling would always remain but he was looking at ways to deter them from stealing the sheep, worth about $43 each, with electric fencing.

"This time last year we were having the same problem," he said. "We can't keep buying sheep and keep getting them flogged at night."

Mr Haronga said it was disheartening to find that every time sheep went missing the rustlers had tried something new to avoid being caught.

"They used to come off the railway line and cut through the fence over there, as soon as something like that happens we move the sheep but this time they just took the sheep right over the fence," he said. "I have a licence just for sheep at the moment, but if I start getting some cattle they won't be able to go over the fence."

Mr Paku said: "My needs are very simple - I use any excess money I have to help out other people, there are people out there that really need help.

"Maybe the whanau out there will start to tell whoever is doing this to leave us alone."

Three years ago 14 stolen sheep were found in a car on the streets of Hastings. Police discovered the lambs, and the group of rustlers that made international headlines after the backyard butchering in Flaxmere was exposed.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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