Key Points:

An unkempt and uncommunicative hermit, living rough in the wilderness of Stewart Island, is thought to have been stealing food from Department of Conservation maintenance huts.

The man, in his 30s, is not the first to have lived rough on the island. Others have been moved on when they were found.

Several people are also believed to be living rough in northern Fiordland.

Stewart Island's permanent residents say the hermit has come to the island from somewhere else.

He has been seen by DoC workers and hunters, and quickly disappeared without speaking.

He was described as unkempt, with shaggy hair and of a large build. He was wearing dark clothes.

Constable Andrew Karsten of the Halfmoon Bay police said the man might be responsible for the theft of the food and a large pack that had a DoC uniform in it.

He said the man might be wearing the fawny green uniform, parading as a DoC worker.

Mr Karsten said all the usual residents of the island had been accounted for, so the man was definitely from off the island.

"Just a man who has decided to go away from civilisation," he said.

There had been three confirmed break-ins, with a couple of weeks' space between them.

The man had been seen in the Rakeahua Valley, Freshwater Track, Doughboy Bay, Masons Bay and Table Hill areas.

"Stewart Island is a very large wilderness area that is sparsely populated," Mr Karsten said.

"There are a lot of shelters, huts and caves that someone could hide in."

DoC Southern Islands area manager Andy Roberts said that when field workers spotted the man, he would quickly disappear.

He was suspected of stealing which was meant to last two men for six weeks.

He had also caused damage to recreational hunting huts and DoC huts.

Hermits would come and live on the island from time to time and workers would encourage them to move on, he said.

Pete Tait, a bed and breakfast owner and tour guide on the island, said he had only just heard about the latest man roaming the island.

He remembered a Japanese woman who lived in the hills in Bluff many years ago until she was taken away.

When Mr Tait was a Forest Service ranger a hermit impersonated him, wearing the uniform and stealing food from his stores.

LONERS IN THE SOUTH ISLAND
Resolution Island

The Otago Witness of 1906 reported a Mr Henry, who lived alone with pets including paradise ducks, weka, seagulls, kakapo and sharks. Photography became one of his hobbies. His home was a three-roomed wooden structure, with several outhouses.

"Bones, metals, stones, birds, plants, fish, books, and an occasional chat with Lady Nicotine make up the sum total of his life," the Otago Witness said. SILVER PEAKS It was a very public secret that Ross Adamson was the man who went bush for about three years in the 1950s.

In March and April 1958 police repeatedly searched the Silver Peaks for a mystery man who had taken food, books, and even a rifle, from nearby hunters' huts.

Adamson, a former furniture shop worker, hid and watched as police searched the cave in which he slept.

When the police left, they admitted the bushman, who they thought left Dunedin more than three years before, would be found only when he wanted to be.

Mr Adamson, who had only one lung after a childhood illness, was caught at Whare Flat three weeks later by off-duty constables on a shooting trip.

He was convicted of theft.

Mt Herbert

Gerald Cover lived on a mountain top near Karamea for six years, waiting for the world to end. He lived in the snow and tussock on the West Coast, using "aerial poles" to attract lightning, chicken netting, a car battery and a bed roll.

During his time on the mountain, Mr Cover said God had told him a world holocaust would occur in 2011.

His theory was that God wanted people to go to high places to show separation from a wicked world.

He apparently finally came off the mountain looking for love.

In early 1991 he advertised for a wife to live with him in his mountain home.

His spot on the mountain was a nine-hour tramp from the Karamea store which he visited once every two weeks to get supplies.

Flagstaff

Ben Rudd came to Dunedin as a young man after serving an apprenticeship as a gardener in England. He worked in the field for many years.

About 1890 he bought a 100-acre (40ha) Dunedin farm and laboriously built a one-room house and stone walls, levering the stones into place with a sack tied around his waist.

At first, he sometimes did gardening jobs away from home, but after returning to find walls damaged and animals let loose he became more and more reclusive, remaining on his Flagstaff property except to ride his horse to Kaikorai Valley to shop.

Animals rather than people were his companions - hens, pigs, and especially his intelligent and affectionate horse.

He even got to know the rabbits and gave them names, attacking any rabbit shooters on Flagstaff.

- Otago Daily Times