Farmer devastated by thefts

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The last three years have been no easier for New Zealand Native Fisheries than they have been for any other oyster farming company, but the Rangaunu Harbour farm owned and operated by Scotty Murray and his family has another problem - thieves.

Mr Murray, who established the farm 17 years ago, said the stealing had started almost as soon as the first oysters were big enough to eat, but the problem had escalated over the last few years. And he had had enough.

"This has got to stop," he said last week.

"I've had a gutsful. I've never worried too much about the odd bucket of oysters going, but this is getting ridiculous. When they start stealing your gear and smashing things - stuff them. I won't be turning a blind eye any more. It's over. Anyone who wants to steal from us now should know that they will be seen. They're going to have to be very careful.

"Obviously some people see us as an easy target, but we won't be any more. We're going to have to keep this place under surveillance. We just can't afford to let this go on."

The straw that broke the camel's back was the theft last week of a couple of batteries from Mr Murray's barge and 10 litres of petrol. The latter was hardly worth the effort of driving to the farm, he said, and replacing the batteries wouldn't put him out too much, but in the process of taking them the thief had done damage to the barge that he expected would cost up to $3000 to repair.

The farm had been raided by thieves more times than he could count. On one occasion he lost a compressor, the thieves cutting a lock to get through a gate, cutting another lock to get into a shed then cutting the chain that was holding the compressor down.

"It would have taken three people to lift it out," he said.

He had no doubt that the thieves were local and that made it worse, not least because others would know who was responsible and were saying nothing.

"It's our people who are doing this to us," he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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