It was a disappointing day for four German tourists when their packs were stolen from their campervan parked at Whangarei Falls.

But their despair turned to relief thanks to some good police work when their stolen items were found floating in a creek.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dene Begbie said the rental van was parked at Whangarei Falls on Monday when it was targeted while the international visitors were walking the track to the bottom of the falls about 11.40am.

When they returned they discovered three bags containing important travel documents and their passports plus an iPad had been taken.

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"The loss of all that would have had a real impact on their travels here in New Zealand," Mr Begbie said.

But investigations by officers over the afternoon saw a team arrest a 44-year-old man from Otangarei later in the same evening. On Tuesday officers went to a Tikipunga house and recovered some of the stolen items and then went to a creek on Vinegar Hill Rd where they found the backpacks.

At least one of the passports was found plus travel documents which were dried out. The iPad was also found.

The tourists had travelled on to Auckland but their property was couriered late on Wednesday. Police said the Germans would be reunited with their gear yesterday.

"They were happy to know they were getting their gear back," Mr Begbie said.

Richard Moa Tohokatia Hunia, 44, appeared in Whangarei District Court on Tuesday and did not enter pleas to two charges of theft ex car. He will make another court appearance on Tuesday to be sentenced on other unrelated charges he has pleaded guilty to including three of burglary, trespass, speaks threateningly and shoplifting.