Two men who allegedly burned clothes stolen from rental vehicles at the Hokitika Gorge have been remanded in custody.
Christchurch men Lama Ataela, 32 and Jason Peter Macioce, 37 were remanded in custody by consent when they appeared before a Justice of the Peace in the Greymouth District Court this morning. They will appear on theft charges in the Christchurch District Court on Thursday.
Sergeant Dave Cross, of Greymouth police, said two rental cars were broken into and $25,000 worth of cash and property stolen at Hokitika Gorge on Saturday.
Police blocked all exits from the gorge and a car - witnessed leaving the gorge on Saturday afternoon - was found abandoned about an hour later by a helicopter searching the banks of the Hokitika River, at Kokatahi.
Police found stolen property, including suitcases full of clothing and electronics.
Cross said a search and rescue member and a tracking dog searched into the night and police were alerted to a bush hideout behind a Kokatahi swamp by smoke about 8.30am yesterday, where they found two men.
They were found "trying to keep warm" and had allegedly been burning stolen clothing, including Icebreaker merino.
Most of the cash and stolen property was recovered, Cross said.
Two men were interrupted in the gorge carpark on Saturday by a Christchurch 4WD Club member who managed to give the registration number and a good description of a blue Subaru station wagon to police.
The man, who did not want to be named, said from one van they took about eight bags that included passports as well as laptops and iPads.
"From the second car they took luggage and even a bag of food and walking shoes."
The man, who alerted police, praised their "fast action".
"There is only one road out of there. One cop came to us. Another stayed at a place they had to go past and the other checked out everywhere he thought they could be hiding."
He said the tourists, from Sydney, were travelling in a family group and were shaken.
The man's Facebook post about the theft was shared by over 300 people with some members of the public claiming to have seen the vehicle in Hokitika.
Cross said the thefts - which were not the first to occur at the popular visitor spot - made the country look bad to tourists.
"It puts New Zealand in a poor light, when it's a green and safe country to have people like this working against that makes it frustrating."
The pair face a number of charges including stealing petrol valued at $90, and $49 from two Christchurch Z service stations on August 6, and stealing property and cash valued at $25,000 at Hokitika on Saturday.
Macioce also faces a separate charge of stealing petrol valued at $79 from a Z Service Station in Belfast on Saturday.
- Hokitika Guardian