Some of Northland's less charitable residents have been helping themselves to items donated to op shops before volunteers have a chance to bring them in.

Donations outside opening hours are often dropped off at charity shop doors for volunteers to collect and sort through in the morning.

However, it seems some people aren't happy to pay even minimal op shop prices and have been helping themselves before the doors open.

The thefts have annoyed Kerikeri resident Janet Moore, who has seen donations to the town's SPCA shop raided twice in two weeks.


"It just riles me. Someone does a good thing by donating, and then people just take it and it only costs pennies to buy," she said.

Mrs Moore was driving past the shop about 5.40am on Saturday when she saw a woman in her early 20s searching through the donations by torchlight.

She challenged the woman, who left with some of the items. At first the woman claimed she had donated them, then changed her story and said a friend had dropped something off she hadn't meant to.

Two weeks earlier, about 5.50pm on Saturday, she saw a couple rifling through the donations.

"I said, 'You've been seen', and the woman said, 'I don't care'."

Bay of Islands SPCA vice-chairwoman Bev Holdsworth said the organisation relied on its op shops for up to 80 per cent of its income.

"So it's pretty soul-destroying when people do this sort of thing."

She had once arrived at the Kerikeri Rd shop to see a TV had been dropped off overnight. By the time she had unlocked the shop and gone back to collect it, someone had loaded it into a car and taken off. She believed other charity shops faced similar problems.


She urged people to drop donations off during work hours if possible (10am-4pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday) or call the office on (09) 407 7515 to arrange a safe drop-off location.

Senior Sergeant Chris McLellan encouraged members of the public to call the police if they saw donations being taken. It could be that items were being taken out of need, so police would "talk constructively" with the people involved.

"These items are donated in good will for the benefit of the charities, which provide an important service," he said.