A Frenchman whose attempts to hitch-hike out of the West Coast landed him in court says New Zealand should be renamed "Nazi Zealand".
Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre, 27, appeared in Greymouth District Court this morning charged with wilful damage after his disastrous four-day mission to get out of Punakaiki. Rault-Verpre pleaded guilty to damaging road signs.
He was ordered to surrender his passport as part of his bail conditions and remanded to appear in Christchurch on Friday.
In court, Rault-Verpre said he had spent four days on the side of State highway 6 at Punakaiki and no one had bothered to even offer him some water.
Locals contacted police yesterday alleging Rault-Verpre took his frustration out on road signs at Punakaiki on the South Island's West Coast.
They said he took one out of the ground and threw it in the nearby Punakaiki River and hurled large rocks at another. They also told police he had verbally abused tourists and locals.
The owner of the signs, Fulton Hogan, is seeking $3000 reparation for the signs, an amount Rault-Verpre is disputing.
Duty lawyer Marcus Zintl said Rault-Verpre just wanted the matter to go away and was he prepared to pay reparation, although he believed the signs were already damaged and he did not do $3000 worth of damage to them.
Rault-Verpre arrived at the courthouse with a backpack, carrying a large black rubbish sack and wearing jeans and a jumper.
Outside court, Rault-Verpre said New Zealand should be renamed "Nazi Zealand".
Asked how long he had been in this country he replied, "too long -- way too long -- and I've been to 80 countries".
He did not confirm if he intended hitchhiking to Christchurch following his appearance today or whether he would take a bus in order to make his next court appearance on Friday.
Yesterday, Senior Sergeant Paul Watson said: "He could have started walking, he would have been in Franz Josef by now."
Where the hitchhiker could have got to in four days.
Police arrested Rault-Verpre and took him to Greymouth where he was bailed and his passport kept.
A staff member from Punakaiki Visitor Centre said yesterday Rault-Verpre had been seen around Punakaiki.
He was noticeable due to the big black plastic bag he carried and was understood to have slept on Punakaiki Beach.
She first saw the man on Saturday afternoon when driving home from work. He was on the side of the road near the Punakaiki River bridge and appeared to be hitching south.
When she returned the next morning he was there again.
She did not see him with his thumb out and wondered if he actually knew hitchhiking technique.
Local business owner Neil Mouat called the police.
He said it seemed the man had enough English to get by as he had offered police the translation services of a French couple working for him but they were not required.
Police alerted the NZ Transport Agency's West Coast contracting team to the sign damage.
Regional performance manager Pete Connors said a replacement sign for the major sign at the entrance to Punakaiki was being ordered and it would be installed in coming weeks.
For safety reasons, New Zealand Police does not recommend people hitchhike or accept rides from people they don't know.
"If you do decide to hitchhike, police strongly advise you not to travel alone," a spokeswoman said today.
The AA referred enquiries around hitchhiking to polic