A young navy rating is to face court after allegedly stealing a police car and taking it for a drunken joyride around the North Shore.

The alleged incident happened on Thursday in Devonport.

The police constable in charge of the vehicle got out to deal with "a disturbance", and a passing navy rating leapt in and drove off, North Shore police area commander Inspector Les Paterson said

The rating was caught at Bayswater Marina, where he was charged with excess breath alcohol and unlawfully taking a vehicle.


"The police constable involved was trying to respond quickly to an incident," Mr Paterson said, adding that the car was left running to aid battery life.

A spokeswoman for the navy promised full co-operation with the police investigation.

"A young sailor appears to have made a series of poor decisions. He has let himself down, and he has let the navy down.

"We do not condone this behaviour and the navy is treating the matter seriously."

In recent years the navy had developed a programme to encourage responsible drinking. "But like the rest of New Zealand, we from time to time get young people in our service who do not act responsibly with alcohol."

The rating will appear in the North Shore District Court this week.

Details emerged this year of an incident involving senior naval officer Commander John Butcher at the New Zealand High Commissioner's residence in July 2011.

At the time, Commander Butcher was captain of the frigate HMNZS Te Mana and swore in front of diplomats.

He later had to be pulled away from the throttle of a navy boat.

When Te Mana returned to New Zealand, Commander Butcher was relieved of his command and later admitted charges of drunkenness, bringing the service into discredit and inappropriate language.

He was reprimanded and ordered to pay a $2000 fine, attend alcohol counselling and write an apology to all the dinner guests.

Other public displays of drunkenness by naval ratings include that of Rawiri Wiremu Wallace Matenga Kingi, who was charged with disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and intentionally damaging a seat in the police patrol car in August last year.

And in June 2011, Petty Officer Norman Anderson was sentenced to 21 days in the military correctional establishment at Burnham after pleading guilty to five charges.

He had drunk up to 17 beers and cycled away from his ship - all while he was meant to be on guard duty.