Mail safety is once again an issue for Parua Bay residents after mass mail theft and vandalism over the weekend.
Between Saturday night and Sunday evening, it is believed letterboxes between Waikaraka Rd near Onerahi, Ross Rd in Taraunui and Kiteone Rd in Parua Bay (a 24km round trip) were raided and their contents either stolen or dumped.
Police say a dog walker saw someone get out of a red car and open letterboxes on Ross Rd before the car drove off. However, the car's registration number was not taken.
As with other rural communities, many residents along Whangārei Heads Rd and townships east of Whangārei had their letterboxes grouped to ensure the safety and efficiency of rural delivery drivers.
One group of letterboxes hit hard over the weekend was on Whangārei Heads Rd - a group of more than 20 boxes beside the Whangārei Cruising Club's trailer yacht compound in Parua Bay.
Parua Bay resident of 10 years, Lisa Culley, saw her letterbox and others open with mail strewn across the road as she came back from town at about 9am on Sunday.
"I was just shocked to be honest, I couldn't believe everyone's mail was all over the road," she said.
Culley quickly collected the mail and notified the local postie to pick up what was left. However, she said she had noticed letterboxes open from about Waikaraka Rd.
She said mail theft had been an issue in the area, which had prompted her to no longer order parcels to her letterbox and would instead pick them up from the courier depot or her brother's store in Whangārei.
"This is probably the worst that we've seen - people's mail thrown all over the road and dumped all over the place."
Whangārei Cruising Club commodore Paul Parsonage, who had lived in the area for about 13 years, owned a letterbox in that same group.
"Obviously, our mail's been gone through and we don't have a clue what we've lost, more than likely a bill or two," he said with a laugh.
While he didn't consider it a regular issue in the area, Parsonage believed there had been a spike in these incidents over the past month - a concerning fact considering the impact of Covid-19.
"It's obvious that the people who are doing it have no respect for other people's property or themselves, so it's quite disappointing.
"In my case, I don't know if some Great Aunty has gone and sent a present to the kids or whatever, you just don't know."
Beth Cooper, who owned a letterbox in the same group, said she had used a padlock after two incidents last year when things were taken from her letterbox.
Despite needing to pick up her parcels from town, Cooper said the effort was worth knowing her parcels were safe.
"It's a bit of a hassle, but at least I'm not losing anything any more," she said.
"Ideally we want to catch the people doing it and have some justice because it's pretty awful."
Cooper wondered whether using combination locks was an option for delivery drivers who could be supplied with a list of residents' combinations.
A lock wouldn't have helped Lamb Rd resident Aaron Mears, who found his entire letterbox had been stolen as he drove past on Sunday morning.
"They must have really loved my $30 Bunnings mailbox," he said.
Mears said he had cleared the box on Saturday and wasn't too concerned he had lost any mail. However, the Parua Bay resident of eight years said such incidents were an "ongoing" issue in the area.
A New Zealand Post spokesperson said mail theft after delivery was a police matter and people were not entitled to compensation.
However, if a signature-required service was used and the parcel was mistakenly left at a property without a signature and then stolen, the spokesperson confirmed people may receive compensation after an assessment.
The spokesperson encouraged people to take steps to avoid theft after delivery, such as checking their letterbox regularly and installing a lock.
Onerahi community police Senior Constable Spencer Penney, who has worked in the area for almost 14 years, said these incidents happened on occasion and was the fourth instance of mail theft he could recall.
Penney encouraged people to be vigilant and to remember or photograph car registration numbers if they saw something suspicious.
"Just be aware - if it looks suspicious it probably is," he said.
Penney said good practice could be to use a lock or, if someone knew a parcel was on its way, clear the letterbox soon after the postie had visited.