December 11, 2023

‘Nasty, gutless act’: Looters target Piha Surf Club, steal ‘essential lifesaving equipment’

Related: PM Chris Hipkins not ruling out compulsory purchases of homes after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Looting is continuing in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, with the iconic Piha Surf Lifesaving Club becoming the latest victim.

Auckland’s Piha, which remains largely cut off, looked like a warzone following the cyclone after huge boulders and branches rained down on properties. 

Adding to the damage, Piha Surf Club said thieves had since targeted them and stolen “essential lifesaving equipment” from the United North Piha Surf Lifesaving facility.

“The thieves broke into the club’s temporary portacom clubrooms and stole 17 hand-held radios, which lifeguards use to communicate with each other during patrols, as well as the radio base unit that connects the club to the Surfcom, Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s centralised operations centre. The thieves also took a laptop belonging to the club, used for administrative and reporting purposes.

“This is a nasty, gutless act. We are still trying to respond to the impact of the cyclone and these thieves have put lives at risk, at a time when Piha is already struggling,” said United North Piha Surf Lifesaving’s Victoria Mulrennan. 

Matt Williams, the chief executive of Surf Lifesaving’s northern region, said it was hard not to get upset and angry.

“One would hope the thieves were unaware that not only where they targeting struggling communities but the services supporting those communities. We are dismayed that someone would target Piha at a time like this.

“To steal equipment used to save lives really highlights the circumstances and desperation of these individuals. This isn’t just a theft from the club, it’s a theft from the entire community.”

Looting has been a major issue in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, particularly in the hard-hit Hawke’s Bay region. Justice Minister Kiri Allan earlier this week called on thieves to “get your act together” and “cut it out”. 

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