Far North carparks 'supermarkets for thieves'

, posted: 7-Jan-2007 13:45

One thing that puts me at least off traipsing around the North Island is all the car break-ins and pillaging that seem to be the norm. Two years ago, family members travelling in the Bay of Islands in a campervan were attacked by a gang of youths at a parking spot on the side of the road and they only just got away. The campervan was pelted with rocks that left big dents in the chassis. The incident wasn't enough to put them off further travelling in New Zealand, but as they had two young children, it's hardly the tourism experience they wanted.

We're not talking about petty crime here that's merely a nuisance. It's people travelling in a country thousands of kilometres away from just about everywhere - and a country that's supposedly civilised and safe for tourists. Having your money and passports stolen here and possibly being violently attacked as the Dutch honeymooners were last year is devastating.

Violence and thefts directed against tourists doesn't appear to be taken seriously though. RadioNZ reports that the small programme to protect thirteen beach and other car parks has seen a drop in funding and only three spots are now being watched.

That strikes me as incredibly short sighted. While it's good that people are warned that there is next to no protection for them now, it also advertises to the thieves that it's open slather. What kind of message does it send out to tourists who in many cases come here to visit places like Northland? Should they stay away for their own safety?

"Don't leave your valuables in the car" is a pretty useless piece of advice, however. The cars will be broken into nevertheless (or you might get your wheels nicked). Furthermore, what's to stop the thugs from mugging people on the beach now that they know that's where the valuables are?

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