Almost all the machinery stolen in a ramraid at a Bay of Islands quarry has been recovered with one man so far facing a raft of dishonesty and firearms charges.
As police narrowed their search for the other suspects they appealed for help from the public, in particular anyone who may have seen the offenders in an Okaihau gravel dump trying to set fire to a stolen truck once they realised it was fitted with a GPS tracking unit.
On Saturday night, thieves drove through a fence at Broadspectrum's Puketona Quarry, near Paihia, then cut through a second internal fence.
Once inside they broke into a site office and three utes and made off with $250,000 of machinery, including diggers, trucks, trailers and even a roadsweeper.
Less than 48 hours later, however, police had located almost all the stolen machinery at properties on Whakataha Rd, Waimate North, and Waiotehue Rd south of Kaitaia.
Detective Sergeant Chris Fouhy, of Kaikohe police, said nine vehicles — including trailers, a digger, cars, a caravan and a roadsweeping tractor — had been recovered from the Whakataha Rd property.
Meanwhile, a GPS tracking unit on one of the stolen vehicles led police to the Takahue property where they recovered a digger and trailer.
When the offenders realised one of the trucks was being tracked they drove it to the gravel dump next to the Okaihau bottle store on State Highway 1 and tried to set it alight.
Fouhy urged anyone who had seen suspicious activity around a Mitsubishi Canter roadworkers' truck in the Okaihau gravel pit around 7-8am on Monday to call the Kaikohe station on (09) 405 2960 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
He also wanted to hear from anyone who had seen anything unusual at Puketona quarry or Saturday night, or a small digger and Hino truck on the move anytime between Saturday night and Monday.
The group entered the quarry about 1am on Sunday then returned about 3am for a second haul.
Police were still looking for a Hitachi digger and trailer.
An 18-year-old man had been arrested but it was obvious ''a whole crew'' had been involved.
He was remanded in custody when he appeared in Kaikohe District Court on Tuesday charged with four counts of receiving stolen property, two of burglary and three of unlawful possession of firearms.
A semi-automatic rifle and two shotguns were seized as part of the police operation.
Meanwhile, Broadspectrum's Far North branch manager Mike Grimshaw said the company "greatly appreciated" police efforts to get their machinery back so quickly.
Damage to the stolen machinery was mostly cosmetic but one ute had been severely damaged, as if the offenders had tried to break in with a sledgehammer. He suspected they wanted to start it so they could tow some of the machines.
Staff were now working to make the quarry "as thief-proof as possible", he said.