Thieves may be targeting Whangarei's avocado growers ahead of Christmas after a Maunu orchardist disturbed a man trying to steal a bin of the fruit.

Whangarei police communications spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said the orchardist, on State Highway 14, Maunu, noticed an unknown man on his property about 8.30pm on Wednesday.

Mrs Kennett said when the orchardist approached the man he saw that he was carrying a bin stuffed with about 200 avocados so confronted the intruder and took the bin of fruit off him.

The would-be thief then took off in a dark green car, believed to be a Nissan, she said. He was described as European of slim build in his 40s, with short hair, wearing a T-shirt and with tattoos up both arms.


Mrs Kennett said anybody who saw any suspicious activity in the area at that time, or suspicious people or vehicles at any time, should contact police on 09 4702500, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

"We will act on any information we receive. Avocados are in season and it's important we get any reports of suspicious activity as soon as possible so we can follow it up," she said.

Anybody offered cheap avocados is also urged to contact police.

There had been a number of thefts from avocado orchards in Northland this year and previous years, with one Whangarei grower estimating $100,000 worth of fruit has been stolen over the past five years.

Growers were being urged to report all fruit thefts to police, increase security and inform other growers.

In November six quad bikes and 1000 avocados were stolen from a Maungatapere orchard while in August two Northland men allegedly selling stolen avocados at an Auckland market were arrested, and hundreds more fruit were discovered in a police raid on two Whangarei homes.

In August Whangarei police issued a health warning after 2000 avocados were stolen from a Maungatapere orchard over two nights after being sprayed with chemicals.