Four men who went on a violent rampage across the central North Island terrorising tourists have been jailed for 10 years each.

Rotorua District Court was told yesterday one of the men went on the violent spree so he could pay drug debts.

Another was high on P -- pure methamphetamine -- at the time of the robberies and had been using the drug since he was 16.

The men used crowbars to smash windows of the tourists' vehicles.

They threatened and attacked their victims, stole their property and slashed their tyres to prevent them from going for help.

The vehicles were left "blood-spattered and ransacked", the court was told.

The four, who all pleaded guilty to three charges of aggravated robbery, are:

* Shaun David Austin, 24, a boner, of Te Aroha,
* Hayden Lee Growden, 28, a hydroblaster, of Te Aroha,
* Ben Joseph Atkinson, 21, a sickness beneficiary, of Paeroa, and
* Cameron Lee Ashby, 26, a labourer, of Paeroa.

In one of the attacks, early on October 12, British tourist Paul Speakman and his 12-year-old son Christian were asleep in their campervan in the Athenree Gorge, near Katikati, when the men set upon them.

The men threatened to drown Mr Speakman and his son if they did not co-operate.

Even when the pair did co-operate, the men continued their attack.

Mr Speakman suffered a cut to his face, which required stitches, and a swollen eye.

It was the Speakman's first night in New Zealand and they were contemplating settling here.

Speaking from England last night, Mr Speakman said it was comforting to know his attackers had been punished.

"The memories have faded but obviously it's had an effect on our lives," he said.

"It's good they're not around to repeat the crime for quite a while."

The court was told that the same morning the Speakmans were attacked, the men beat and robbed a Wellington man who had parked his car in a rest area at Okere Falls, near Rotorua.

They threatened the man with a crowbar and told him his teeth would be smashed in if he did not hand over his wallet.

Two weeks earlier they attacked and robbed two foreign tourists in the Tongariro National Park. One of the victims likened it to a "commando raid".

Judge Phillip Cooper said the "terror attacks" had a profound effect on the victims, most of whom were from overseas. They had suffered ongoing physical and emotional trauma.

The men's lawyers argued that Austin had inflicted injuries with the crowbar and the other three men played a lesser role in the robberies.

But Judge Cooper said all four played an equal part.

The four were heavy P users and all had numerous previous convictions.

If they had not pleaded guilty they would have been facing a jail term of 13 years.

The men's lawyers said all four were remorseful and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Growden's lawyer, Harry Edward, handed a $1000 cheque to Judge Cooper as a "small gesture" of how sorry he was, money which was to be split between the victims.

- DAILY POST (ROTORUA)