A thief who tried to make off with a car towing a boat and trailer ended up dragging the boat along a highway before being chased by an angry holidaymaker and fleeing on foot.

The brazen theft occurred about 7.30am on New Year's Day as an Auckland family was holidaying at Paihia's Marsden Rd.

A man described by Kerikeri police Senior Sergeant Peter Robinson as an opportunist thief entered a garage, took the keys to the family's car, and drove off at speed. A boat and trailer were coupled to the car but the speed with which the offender exited the driveway dislodged the boat.

The boat was still attached by a cable so was dragged along Marsden Rd beside the trailer.


Mr Robinson said it was only good luck that no serious accident resulted. The offender then turned left up Puketona Rd and drove up SH11 out of town, still dragging the boat behind him.

He pulled over at a gravel dump at the top of the hill, where he was confronted by the owner of the boat who had given chase in another vehicle. He then fled on foot into the bush.

Mr Robinson said the man could not be found despite the efforts of a police tracking dog and a large number of staff. He urged anyone with information about the theft to contact the Kerikeri station on (09) 407 9211.

The dragged boat incident was only one of several over the New Year break involving theft or fleeing drivers.

A few hours earlier, about 2am on January 1, police had to abandon their pursuit of a silver Subaru stationwagon driving at high speed in the Moerewa area. A similar vehicle was later seen travelling at high speed in Kawakawa; again the driver refused to stop and the chase had to be abandoned. That time, however, the pursuing officer managed to get the registration. Police were looking for the car's owner.

Also on January 1, about 10.20pm, a car was clocked at more than 150km/h heading south on SH10 at Bulls Gorge. The driver, an 18-year-old Bay of Islands man, was located in Paihia and charged with dangerous driving. His licence was also suspended for 28 days.

Meanwhile, Kaitaia police are still looking for a man who fled on foot after a pursuit that began at Maitai Bay last Tuesday and ended at the southern end of Tokerau Beach. He led police on to the beach about 8pm in an allegedly stolen Mazda Bounty and managed to ford the stream at Aurere. The driver tried to return to the beach but this time the ute was swamped mid-stream.

"He took off and disappeared into the mangroves," a police spokesman said.