By Sonita Chandar
Desperate to stop stock rustlers decimating their sheep numbers, a farming couple set booby traps on their property only to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The couple, who do not wish to be named or their location identified, say they have been victims of stock rustlers for 42 years.
''Over the years, we estimate rustling has cost us $2 million,'' the man said. ''It has affected our flock size and quality.
''We have reported incident after incident to the police, but nothing has been done. We are frustrated, upset and angry so decided to take matters into our own hands.''
The couple did not wish to give details of the booby traps they set but said they were not designed to seriously injure but more to scare rustlers off.
The booby traps were reported to police by an unknown person.
''Some bloke reckons he was walking his dog along the riverbed and saw them. I was arrested and fined $10,000.''
This was not the only time the farmer landed in hot water. On another occasion he tried to stop rustlers stealing deer that had wandered onto his property.
''We had seen a helicopter flying over our property a couple of times chasing down deer. One day we saw the helicopter and drove around to where it was and flagged them down.'' The helicopter set down in front of their vehicle and one of the men got out and approached them in an aggressive manner.
''My son tackled him about it and they left. Instead of going straight up and off, he flew directly over the ute and us. He obviously thought he was being clever.''
Surprisingly, a few days later, police appeared on the doorstep and arrested him. The alleged offenders had told police the farmer had rammed the helicopter with his vehicle.
''They wanted to hear my side of the story, but I refused to tell them anything and ended up in court.
''I got stuck into the judge about the charges and the law. I told him my story and the case was dismissed.'' Even though the farmer represented himself, defending the charges cost him $1500 and numerous sleepless nights.
''What gets me is the police took statements from the two men on different days which gave them time to concoct a story to get me in trouble. There were never any charges laid against them. They got off scot-free, which is disgusting.''
The couple said stock had regularly gone missing, often up to a 100 lambs at a time. Reinforcing fences and installing security cameras had not helped.
''You hear of incidents all the time and there are big numbers going missing all over the country.
n March we lost 100 sheep and when we called police, their response was they were probably dead in a gully – they weren't.'' A law change was needed, he said. ''What happens to a person in town going onto someone's property with a gun? Is it one law for town and one for country? It should be the same for everyone.
''We should get back our right to protect our home, land and stock, otherwise who is protecting us? The police aren't.''
A police spokesman advised farmers not take matters into their own hands.
''Police take stock theft and other crime affecting rural communities seriously. We value our relationship with rural communities and work wherever possible with them to reduce crime as part of our Prevention First strategy.''
If farmers believed a theft was occurring, police should be immediately alerted. Any suspicious activity or movement should also be reported, so that it could be logged and responded to, if needed.
''We (police) strongly encourage people in rural communities to get into the habit of recording the details of unfamiliar people or vehicles whose appearance or behaviour in the area arouses suspicion or unease.''
But the couple said they had done exactly what police recommended, but felt like they had being fobbed off.
They are not alone. A Tararua farmers said he had no doubt his complaint was ignored by police after finding an early season lamb shot dead by a bow and arrow.
''The police response is the biggest disappointment in the entire saga, especially as their advice is to report all incidents and not take matters into your own hands.'' He rang the police after finding the lamb and was advised to keep the carcass in case of autopsy.
''I went back out to grab it and as I was driving up to the dead lamb, something red and yellow in the paddock caught my eye. It was an arrow.
''When I picked up the dead lamb, it also had an arrow in it. I realised that was why we never heard anything.'' The farmer rang police again, who advised him to take the arrows to the local station.
''I handed them over and the policeman said there was nothing they could do about it. He told me he was taking them out the back and throwing them in the rubbish bin.
''He didn't even try and sugarcoat it by saying they would look into it or something. It makes you wonder why bother reporting it.'' Over recent months stock had gone missing regularly.
''This year is probably the worst it has been, and 50 are unaccounted for.''
Police say the Crimestoppers website and phone line 0800 555 111 offer an alternative option for rural people to pass on anonymous information about crime.