A judge has slammed the actions of two men who allegedly stole power generators being used to help people without phones in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch.
Owen Anthony Jackson, a 23-year-old fisherman and Jed Wilson-Calver, 22, unemployed, yesterday appeared in a makeshift courtroom at the Christchurch police station charged with stealing three $6000 generators powering roadside cabinets for 500 landline and broadband customers.
Shortly before Judge Michael Crosbie denied the men bail and remanded them in custody, he asked: "What would possess someone to do that? These are essential communications and there are people dying out there. That is the context we are in."
Judge Crosbie said that despite the city's dire circumstances there was food, water and shelter for people and no reason to resort to crime.
"Those who burgle, steal, loot or impersonate officials show they are capable of anything."
The men's appearance in court came after it emerged that missing Canterbury Television producer Donna Manning's home was burgled while her children anxiously waited for news of her.
There have also been reports of people impersonating officials such as aid workers and Earthquake Commission (EQC) staff, including one asking to see a resident's possessions so he could return to steal them.
Detective Superintendent Peter Read said the thefts were "disgraceful" and "insulting".
"When everyone's hurting, they don't actually need this extra aggravation from these people," he said.
"It's not only insulting to the Canterbury public, of which they're supposed to be a part, but it's hindering recovery operations and emergency services."
The two skin-headed men charged with the generator thefts made offensive hand gestures to court staff and media in the makeshift courtroom.
Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said staff would rather focus on finding the missing and supporting the injured and homeless, but they would take a hard line against thefts, looters and profiteers.
Judge Crosbie said the men's offending was serious and carried a maximum jail term of seven years.
The pair are due to reappear in court on March 28.
The session dealt with other people charged with earthquake-related offences, including Nathan John de Seymour, 22, a hammer hand, of the southern suburb of Beckenham, who was charged with burglary of a house.
He was also remanded in custody until March 28.
Meanwhile, bogus EQC staff have been going door-to-door asking Christchurch residents about their electronic items, police say.
Superintendent Russell Gibson said residents should be cautious and vigilant as a trend of people impersonating officials started to emerge.
Police had heard of people posing as EQC staff members going door-to-door asking questions about electronic equipment inside the houses.
They were also seen on properties wearing high-visibility vests, but disappeared quickly when they realised they had been seen, he said.
There had also been reports of at least two Australians posing as both Urban Search and Rescue and disaster victim identification staff.