Thieves have raided boats entered in a fishing competition in the Far North and stolen up to $60,000 worth of equipment.
There are 306 anglers entered in the 2016 Houhora One Base game fishing tournament with 90 boats. The competitors were briefed on Wednesday night and it was yesterday morning that they discovered the thefts, which included rods, reels, fish finders and GPS machines.
Thieves raided at least six boats, one of which was reportedly put out of action, but other contestants rallied around and provided the rods and reels that the other victims needed to go fishing.
The thefts left the organisers struggling for words to express their disgust.
"Everything's been going so well. Everyone's been on a high and now this happens," Debbie Bunn said.
At least one of the boats raided was from Kaitaia, while another had been towed north from Auckland on Tuesday by a group of "young fellows", who Ms Bunn described as absolutely devastated.
Two of the boats were at the Houhora Heads camping ground, one at a motel and one on a private property.
"God help these [thieves] if they try again and someone catches them," Ms Bunn said.
"Some of these guys were sleeping right beside their boats and didn't hear a thing. This is not what we're about in the Far North.
"These are the same [despicable people] who target camper vans. They see an event like this as an opportunity. I honestly don't know what's wrong with them."
She believed the incident should serve as a warning to organisers and participants in the Placemakers 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza surfcasting tournament which starts next Tuesday.
Organisers of that event said yesterday that contestants should not leave valuables, including wallets, on display in their vehicles while they are fishing or at the weigh-in.