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Farm fuel stores are being picked off by thieves, spurred on by high prices at the pump. Vehicles and other valuable farm plant are also being targeted. Police are urging vigilance, writes Rachel Macdonald. 

Vehicles, quad bikes, and tools are among just a few of the reported farm thefts in North Canterbury in recent weeks.

However, while an unlocked shed or a ute parked at a paddock road gate with the keys in the ignition might be the target of an opportunistic ratbag, some rural burglaries seem to be the result of more in-depth knowledge of what is being held on a specific farm and how to get to it.

One North Canterbury dairy farmer, for example, says her property has lost large amounts of fuel several times. It is for this reason she asked not to be identified.

“Possibly, the assumption is that, because we’re a farm, we have petrol and diesel onsite.

“Our tanks aren’t visible from the road, and the last time it happened, they came in through one of the back gates,” she says.

“The thing is, quite a few people come to any farming property. You’ve got your farm reps, the tanker drivers and the fuel tankers.

“I’d hate to think it’s someone we know, but you also don’t know whom people talk to.

“In our case, I think they knew exactly what they were doing.”

She says it isn’t just a case of someone taking advantage of her tanks to fill their vehicle.

“We’re talking a lot of fuel.

“They have to have carefully planned how that was going to work. As a result, we’ve now installed a camera system.”

The police’s Canterbury rural area prevention manager, Senior Sergeant Matt Emery, says fuel theft is widespread and challenging.

“We are still seeing a lot of minor, opportunistic thefts, tools going missing, building sites getting broken into, poaching of trophy animals, that kind of thing.

“We also recently had a spate of four-wheel-drives and Hiluxs going missing up in Amberley. It turned out there was a small team of criminals targeting just these,” he says.

“Fuel-wise, this is a considered crime. Put your diesel where it’s hard to get to, park your heavy machinery in front of your tanks, and use signage to make it clear you’ve got cameras and alarms.

“As cameras become more affordable, it’s going to get harder to get on to a
property to steal without being identified.”

Another North Canterbury farmer, who also does not want to be named because his property has been targeted frequently, has had his own experience with modern technology.

“The boys were having smoko in the big shed, when this drone turns up out of nowhere in the doorway,” he says.

“One of the guys unlocked a gun and shot it down. The camera was still
running when we handed it over to the police.”

Regardless of how a property is being cased out, times have changed, Mr Emery says, and anyone living rurally needs to take more care over
security.

According to the rural police guidelines, this includes:

– Locking buildings;
– Checking boundaries and fence lines on a regular basis;
– Clearly tagging animals;
– Removing keys from unattended vehicles;
– Marking or engraving tools with your licence number;
– Making sure you don’t leave firearms in vehicles;
– Keeping in contact with neighbours and looking out for anything unusual.