A safe picked up by rubbish collectors found to contain as much as $30,000 in cash was cracked open by a rubbish compactor.

Council contractors picked the safe up in Hillsborough on March 7 after it was left out for collection.

Upon cracking it open, they found a sum of money inside, which was handed in to police.

Auckland Council was notified of the discovery on the same day.

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Information released to the Herald under the Official Information Act by Auckland Council showed the safe was opened after being put in the back of a truck.

"The safe, along with other rubbish material, was placed into the back of the compactor rubbish truck.

"The truck then activated a 'compacting cycle'. At this time the compacting device crushed and broke open the safe box, and the money was discovered.

"The collection staff then immediately notified Waste Management and the NZ Police were also notified at the same time."

The matter was under investigation by police but so far no charges have been laid.

"As it is still an active file being investigated police are not able to comment further," a police spokeswoman said.

Auckland Council said no complaints or disciplinary actions were taken against staff employed by Waste Management, either in relation to the incident with the safe or since the company's contract for inorganic collection began.

The amount of money found in the safe, the amount handed in to police and the identity of the safe's owner were not disclosed to council.

The safe's owner had previously declined to be interviewed by the Herald and police did not disclose the amount of cash handed in.

Waste Management did not respond to request for comment, but national manager Monica Cadman had previously said the discovery was "acted on immediately".

Neither she nor police confirmed the amount, which the Herald understands could be as much as $30,000.

At the time the discovery of the cash raised the legal question of whether "finders keepers" applies - or if the money should be returned to the absent-minded safe owner who threw it away.

Barrister Marie Dyhrberg said in such cases it wasn't as simple as "finders keepers".
Anyone who found and kept a large sum of cash or valuable objects could be subject to "theft by finding" if they did not hand it in to police.

"Common sense would tell you no one would abandon [cash] and that's an oversight."

Theft by finding means you cannot assume because you found something abandoned that it now belongs to you.