The Far North very quickly becomes defensive when someone, usually the media, maligns it, generally in the wake of some negative event that seemingly cements its reputation as a lawless backwater, the home of drongoes, thieves and thugs.

Those who live here know that the district is not as it is so often portrayed, that it is home to some exceptional people, and that it has a special character, so much good that far outweighs the bad.

Does it matter what others think of us? Yes and no. We know better than they do, but bad publicity makes it more difficult to attract the investment, and the people, that we need to grow and prosper.

'Every so often we see an especially egregious example of bad behaviour, and the stripping of the fruit from the Kerikeri Mission orchard was one of those occasions.'

Few would argue that at times the Far North is badly treated, by the media, but sometimes one has to wonder if our reputation isn't deserved. Every community has them, but we seem to be plagued with more drop kicks per square metre than others.


We have enough to start an export industry.

Every so often we see an especially egregious example of bad behaviour, and the stripping of the fruit from the Kerikeri Mission orchard was one of those occasions.

This is no ordinary orchard, although it wouldn't make any difference if it was. Some of the trees are amongst the oldest in the country, their fruit being used to produce jams and jellies that are sold to tourists.

That, and the simple fact that the fruit is someone else's property, hasn't spared it from theft on a small scale in the past, but this time the thieves took every last plum, peach, fig — even the lemons.

They systematically helped themselves to the lot, damaging at least one of the oldest trees in the process.

It takes something special to rate a theft as reaching towards the bottom of the barrel, but this one comes close. This fruit was almost certainly not taken to feed a starving family, but to generate income for people who are unlikely to desperately need it.

The theory is that the fruit ended up at a roadside stall or a market, which seems probable. The two young men who were seen filling tubs on February 4 did not strike the witness as especially impoverished or desperate (although they might not have been the main offenders).

Just utterly shameless. The sort of people who don't give a stuff about anyone else. Common or garden scroats who weren't desperate for a feed of plums or lemon honey, but saw an opportunity to make a few bob at someone else's expense.


There was a time when it would not have occurred to anyone to do this. Children have always been tempted by other people's fruit, and those in real need might take some, but stripping an entire orchard displays a level of greed that once didn't exist, or at least wasn't displayed.

Then we have the stupid fraternity, people who seemingly have no ability to imagine the possible consequences of their actions. The four men who set an entire hillside on fire at Rangihoua last month, and the idiot who set fire to an islet with fireworks, are the latest examples of that not so exclusive brotherhood.

What would possess someone to detonate some sort of incendiary device capable of sending a ball of fire into the sky, and setting fire to bush behind the beach? Hopefully that question will be answered in court in due course. And, if there is any justice, they will pay every last cent of what it cost to put the fire out.

And why would anyone go to the trouble of putting to sea in a boat then aiming fireworks at a rock covered in vegetation, just 15m from a much more substantial island, home to precious wildlife and a couple of houses? This takes dumb to a whole new level, and again, the perpetrator will hopefully be shamed and punished, including by way of reparation.

The Far North hasn't quite cornered the stupidity market though. Last week an imbecile in Auckland rode an e-scooter into the harbour. A friend had offered him $1000 to do it, apparently, which was all the encouragement he needed. He can now expect to receive a bill of $1500 for the scooter, however, so he's made a loss.

By all accounts this genius works in promotions, which means he spends his time making money for other people. Hopefully he runs his own business, given his natural talent for forward thinking. He might be a good investment for Shane Jones' PGF. We need more of this sort of financial wizard, who looks old enough to be a product of Helen Clark's short-lived knowledge economy.

What can we normal people do about this? If they don't identify themselves, dob them in. Don't let them get away with it. We need to overcome our reticence about pointing the finger at those who are in need of education or correction.

We need to be significantly more incensed about bad and stupid behaviour than we seem to be, and simply refuse to tolerate it.

That might be easier said than done for some though. Certainly the good folk of Kaikohe aren't rushing to do their bit to end their town's extraordinary record for dog attacks.

Last December 95-year-old Jim Morgan's little terrier-cross Sandy was mauled by a pack of six dogs that were reportedly running after a man on a blue quad bike, who didn't hang around to see the damage they had done. Sandy ended up being euthanased, leaving Jim utterly bereft.

Shouldn't be hard to find those dogs, right? Wrong. Blue quad bikes are hardly a dime a dozen, but while some folk said they had seen it before, no one has been able to identify the owner. He has to be local, surely, yet not one person in Kaikohe has been able to help the district council find him or his dogs. Unbelievable.

The council cannot be accused of doing nothing to curb the town's dog problem, which it would now somewhat disingenuously have us believe is no worse than anywhere else, but the steps it has taken so far have clearly not been effective. If someone dies, or is very seriously injured, it will have a lot of explaining to do.

It now says, however, quite rightly, that it needs public assistance. It has called on Kaikohe residents to give it the information it needs to control the dogs, or destroy them, and to prosecute the owners.

It accepts that this might not be easy for some, who might well be the neighbours of those who are allowing their dogs to roam and attack people at will, and that's fair enough. But there must come a point where decent people decide they've had enough, and do the right thing.

It isn't only the council that needs to do a better job. People who could say something but don't are equally culpable, perhaps more so. The same goes for those who know who stole the Kerikeri Mission fruit. Keeping shtum makes them little better than the people who committed the theft.

The solution really is in our hands. The police, the council, DOC, whichever authority is involved, can only do their job if they are given the information they need.

It is in everyone's interests for those who misbehave, out of malice or stupidity, to receive their comeuppance, not only for their personal betterment but more importantly to deter others.

Maintaining law and order in its broadest sense relies on people knowing that if they step out of line they will be identified. Once upon a time the Far North night really did have a thousand eyes, to quote Francis Bourdillon. It needs to do so again.