A group of boys has been caught red-handed vandalising a volunteer-built walkway along Kerikeri's Wairoa Stream.
The popular track, which gives access to swimming holes and a waterfall near the town centre, has been repeatedly hit by vandals in recent weeks with boardwalks pulled up and thrown into the stream, safety ropes cut, trees damaged and signs stolen.
It wasn't clear who was behind the damage until Thursday afternoon, when track volunteer Cliff Mail saw nine boys pulling up another section of boardwalk.
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They had dragged it about 20m and were trying to carry it across a bridge, presumably intending to throw it into the stream.
''I caught them by surprise. I yelled out to them and asked what the bloody hell they thought they were doing. I pointed out that it was a walking track and a lot of effort went into building the track and the boardwalks and we were getting p***** off.''
Mail said he ''copped a fair bit of abuse'' from the boys, who he guessed were aged between 12 and 14. He didn't get a photo because he suspected his phone would have ended up in the stream.
Rod Brown, the main driver of the Wairoa Stream walkway project, reported the incident to Kerikeri police on Friday morning.
The walking track had been built with thousands of hours of volunteer labour and was funded by public donations, so it was frustrating when time and money had to go into repairs.
Volunteers from the Friends of Wairoa Stream group had spent four hours on Monday securing the first boardwalk with reinforcing steel and 50kg of concrete.
They had also replaced a stolen safety rope along a steep section of track with wire, which would be less attractive to thieves.
Four signs had also been stolen in recent months, though that was probably unrelated, and one sign asking people not to take dogs through a stretch of private property had been vandalised.
Brown said volunteers had been diverted from essential weed control to carry out the repairs. It was likely they would have to secure the second boardwalk with concrete as well.
Vision Kerikeri's latest project was installing rat traps along the trail.
''It's just a pity there are no traps for idiots,'' he said.
■ If you know who is responsible for the vandalism call in to the Kerikeri police station or phone the non-emergency line on 105.