Kerikeri police are hoping results from forensic testing will lead them to the "low-life" who broke into a historic church to steal donations.

The St James Anglican Church in Kerikeri, the second oldest church in the country, was broken into by thieves on Thursday night who stole a donation box that chairman of the church trust Richard Ward said could have had several hundred dollars in. "I am pretty disgusted by it, that there is some low-life who did this."

Mr Ward was called at 4.30am on Friday morning by a security guard who noticed the door had been forced open.

He said when he arrived at the church, police were there. He noticed some blood at the scene, which is believed to belong to the thieves.


Sergeant Phil Le Comte said the case was a work-in-progress but police are keen to find the thief or thieves.

Reverend Ron Jamieson and Mr Ward said there was a great deal of relief that the damage to the church was minimal.

"I am relieved that there was no further damage, there was no vandalism or anything. I don't know how much we have lost in terms of donations, and of course I am disappointed that anyone would feel it appropriate to break in and steal these gifts," Mr Jamieson said.

Mr Ward said the church receives between $600 and $700 in the donation box annually.

He said the brass box was in a wooden desk with a thick glass panel over it.

Marks from the tools used to remove it were left in the desk.

"The damage was minimal, but I'm most bothered by the loss of that box," Mr Ward said.

"It's going to be difficult to make one similar."


He is appealing to the public to keep an eye out for the brass box, as it is likely to have been discarded by thieves once they removed the cash from it.

"St James is more than just a church. It's a historical building."

The church was broken into in April and June 2011, and the donation box was taken then but recovered in a nearby bush.

The church was built in 1829, sits near the Stone Store and overlooks the Kerikeri Basin Reserve.