An environmentalist working to restore a stand of native bush in Auckland caught a would-be thief in the act earlier this week after months of repeated thefts.
Geoff Reid filmed his encounter with the man, which quickly turned violent when he confronted him attempting to remove water tanks used by volunteers at Okura Bush at the top of the North Shore.
Reid told the Herald he found the man when he visited the site on the afternoon of May 10 and decided to film the encounter.
Video shows Reid approaching the man, who appears flustered and out of breath when asked what he is doing loading the tanks on to a trailer.
“Why are talking with such a bit of concern on your voice,” Reid asks as the man spins a yarn about ownership of the land, claiming it is publicly owned.
“You’re helping yourself to community stuff… you’re stealing,” Reid says, pressing the man for his name.
As the man walks away in an attempt to show Reid that they are on public land, Reid takes the opportunity to open the man’s ute and find documents containing his name.
This move enrages the would-be thief, who threatens to burn down the community project before beginning to unload the contents of the trailer while abusing Reid.
“I’ll be taking all your s**,” he says, before swinging a closed fist at Reid as he walked back towards his ute.
“I’m going to steal everything you’ve got there,” he said, before threatening to reverse his trailer into Reid.
“You wouldn’t know how to back it,” Reid counters, an insult to the man’s pride that sent him over the edge.
He hops out of the ute, only for Reid to mock him further, leading to him hurling a large piece of wood at Reid’s car and then retreating.
Reid told the Herald that the community group had put in a lot of hard work to restore and protect the native bush.
The work is being done by community group Friends of Okura Bush, alongside Auckland Council, DoC and local iwi and seeks to restore the old growth, coastal forest in the area – which is the last pocket of such forest on Auckland’s East Coast.
He said it was galling to see such brazen theft, given the limited funds that the project operates on, noting that while the water tanks had a low monetary value, they were vital pieces of equipment for the team.
To the man’s assertion that he had cultural claim to the land, Reid pointed to the group’s work alongside local iwi and asked whether the man had spoken to iwi leaders before helping himself to equipment being used to protect the bush.
Reid said he was disappointed when he caught the man and felt for the volunteers who had donated so much of their time to the project but said if there was any silver lining to the incident, it was that the video had drawn attention to the work being done at Okura.
Police confirmed that they are aware of footage of the incident and are making further enquiries.
They ask that anyone with information that may assist their investigation contact them on 105 quoting the file number 220511/9121.
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