Small Town NZ Life – Martinborough A Town Under Seige

Martinborough is a town in South Wairarapa, population 1300.

Growing frustration amongst the good residents of the town caused them to take it upon themselves to do something about a crime spree of burglaries.

In April they set up a night patrol after a tidal wave of 45 burglaries struck the town over 11 days.

However, local youths clashed with the vigilantes, which led to a shot being fired and police ordered the group off the streets. Since then break-ins have soared again and local residents are living in fear. This is a fairly typical story of one family’s experiences of living in the town:

By Nathan Crombie of the Wairarapa Times

Martinborough resident Winifred Bull, 63, said she fell victim to burglars along with four nearby neighbours in a single evening only 11 days after a self-appointed night patrol in the town disbanded in the wake of a brawl involving two members and a group of teenagers last month.

Mrs Bull said her husband David was in Wellington overnight a week ago Tuesday and she was home alone with her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby.

She said the couple shifted to Martinborough about 12 years ago to a “somewhat isolated” house on the edge of town and the animals were bought as guard dogs, the first after home invaders killed Reporoa woman *Beverly Bouma in 1998.

“The dogs heard something outside just before 11pm and started barking again after midnight when I was in bed reading.”

Mrs Bull decided to ignore her dogs’ reactions and found the next morning that burglars had taken the couples’ gate off its hinges, smashed her car window and stolen her wallet from the vehicle.

“I don’t feel safe. I knew about the huge number of burglaries earlier this year and thought the night patrol had solved the problem.

“But we were given a false sense of security. The burglars never went away,” she said.”

Firearms taken in latest break-in

A few days ago 66 year old Martinborough farm worker Dave Harris’ home was burgled and a shotgun and high-powered rifle along with ammunition were taken as he and his family were asleep in the house.

When he reported the break-in to the sole police officer in the town he was told that there were three other burglaries in the town the same night. Police seem to be woefully ill-equipped to deal with the crime spree.

It’s hardly any wonder the town felt it was under under siege but now the stakes have been raised and high powered weapons and ammunition have been taken. Fears are that the situation is set to get a lot worse and some people have said they’re thinking of sleeping with a gun next to their bed.

Many are calling for the night patrol to be re-established, older people are saying its presence made them feel safer. Who is there to protect them now?

* Beverly Bouma was killed in an uprovoked and premeditated home invasion by four men in November 1998. See link – The Reporoa Killing