As two men high on methamphetamine stole dozens of logs from Ron Hedley's Ruatoria timber yard, the 68-year-old confronted them, only to be viciously dragged behind the vehicle as they made off.
But instead of pressing for jail time, Hedley, who is legally blind, has shown "extraordinary" generosity, and offered one of the men a job.
That man, Junior Te Maro, 31, appeared in Ruatoria District Court on Thursday, after pleading guilty to two charges of burglary, one of careless driving, and breaching community work, the Gisborne Herald reported.
Te Maro avoided a jail term, with Judge Warren Cathcart saying the sentence imposed was "only through virtue of the victim's position".
The victim's job offer was an "extraordinary act of generosity and compassion". In three and a half years on the East Coast bench, he had never seen another gesture like it.
He sentenced Te Maro to five months' community detention, 220 hours community work and 12 months' supervision.
He warned Te Maro if he stole again, he could expect to be jailed.
Hedley said he offered Te Maro a job at his sawmill and timber yard after Te Maro revealed during a Restorative Justice conference he was "wasted on meth" at the time, "hanging around doing nothing all day".
"When you build up a business in a place like this you see the need in the community," Hedley told the Herald.
"I work with these people, their families, we are a small community, so I have a feel for them. When one of the community goes crooked, starts stealing off me in the night, I want to get close to them and understand them."
During the burglary on October 27 last year at about 5am, Hedley, who lives on the property, heard the commotion and confronted the pair.
They managed to drive off, but dragged Hedley for a short distance across his gravel yard while he clung on to their vehicle. He suffered grazes to his legs.
"I just wanted to talk to them, have a cup of tea, have a chance to get to know them, but they got away.
"When I met [Te Maro] doing the Restorative Justice session, we had a yarn for about half an hour. I understood him, and he understood me. He never had anything against me, he just wanted what I had so he could buy some more P."
During the burglary the pair had stolen 40 half round fence posts, valued at $10.50 each.
Hedley said he had the opportunity to help Te Maro, and so that was what he was doing.
"He will probably start off loading timber but if he is happy I am happy to train him up, hopefully give him a sense of purpose. He is still quite sharp and seemed quite keen."
Hedley, born and raised in Gisborne, started to lose his sight at age seven, and was legally blind by his 20s. He said he had "developed ways to get around it".
He moved up the coast to Ruatoria in the 1960s, first working as a scrub cutter, as nobody would give him a job because of his poor eyesight. He expanded the operation into the 1970s employing a gang of locals, and established the timber mill in 1980.
Along with processing timber and building supplies, they also produced modular homes, and with his three engineer sons were researching transforming forestry wood waste into electricity and biofuels.
Hedley now employed about five staff, and hoped Te Maro would become a permanent member of the team.
Te Maro's counsel said in court he was in the grips of addiction to methamphetamine at the time but was now taking steps to address it.
Hedley said he would need assistance from other institutions to help with keeping Te Maro clean.
Te Maro's associate George Rowland, 19, had been unable to attend the Restorative Justice meeting with Hedley, but wanted another opportunity to meet him. A spokeswoman for Restorative Justice said she would make inquiries for him.
The Herald has reached out to Te Maro for comment.
- with The Gisborne Herald