The lawless north lived up to its reputation again yesterday when a party of tourists on quad bikes near Ahipara were caught up in the aftermath of an armed “squabble” between two brothers.
The group was stopped by fully kitted out Armed Offender Squad officers looking for the offenders, no doubt scaring the wits out of the visitors looking forward to a quiet day at the beach.
Here’s how the incident was reported on by The Herald:
Armed police put a coastal village in lockdown yesterday after what started as a squabble between brothers ended in gunfire.
The search for the gunman – known locally as “The Dump Rat” – took police through bush, over sand dunes and through a tourist group on quad bikes. The Armed Offenders Squad spent five hours hunting for the man after they were called to the coastal hamlet of Ahipara, 14km west of Kaitaia in Northland. The man was arrested at about 5pm at Shipwreck Bay, a remote area with a shanty town a few kilometres south of the village.
Tua Tua Tours guide Richard Evan was taking two visitors from Auckland on a trip across sand dunes south of the village. He said the group was briefly stopped by police in combat gear and automatic weapons. “I thought to myself ‘man, I would not want those guys after me’ because if they wanted you, you would be dead. I knew the guy they were after and I thought ‘I hope he hasn’t come down here’.” He said the man acquired his nickname of “The Dump Rat” because he spent a lot of time at the town tip.
Evan said locals had been told that the man had used a firearm during an argument with his girlfriend and brother. “He’s not a killer, so he wouldn’t have shot to kill… but he’s still a bit off.”
Police cordons confused residents and locals complained of not being told what was going on.”
Tourists in Ahipara and the surrounding area, you may remember, have have fallen foul of the region’s criminal element in the recent past.
In May three French visitors were beaten and robbed in their camper van in Mangamuka and another French tourist, Anthony Cressend, was beaten and robbed at a campsite in Ahipara around this time last year..
A Swiss family were attacked and racially abused in Kaitaia in January, two American tourists were robbed in September at Shipwreck Bay and three Chinese tourists were attacked and robbed in TePake, near 90 Mile Beach a month earlier.
There are thought to be at least 1.1 million legally owned firearms in New Zealand, enough for one in four of the population. Maybe more stringent licensing standards are needed if people who are a “bit off” are allowed to keep guns?
The region needs to get on top of its crime problem, tourism is vital to the economy of Northland. Every single tourist ‘mishap’ is doing them harm.