A man threw an axe at a passing car then threatened to chop the driver's head off when he discovered it was his son in a stolen car, a court has been told.

Justin Faatafu, 33, of Karamea, pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon and threatening speech when he appeared in Westport District Court yesterday.

Defence lawyer Ian Miller said Faatafu had broken up with his partner that day.

The car revving its engine outside his house in Christchurch and speeding up and down the street had spurred him to throw an axe at it.

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It was then that he discovered it was his son behind the wheel of the stolen vehicle.

Mr Miller said Faatafu denied threatening to chop off his son's head but had said he would give him a hiding if he ever stole a car again.

Judge Emma Smith asked why Faatafu hadn't been charged with endangering traffic, which carried a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Faatafu needed to know just how serious his actions were, said Judge Smith. Throwing an axe at a car could cause a fatal crash.

"You came that close to really injuring someone," she said.

She sentenced him to nine months supervision, including anger management, and 100 hours community work.