British tourists lose it all at Huka Falls, Taupo


Have you seen this van?

An intrepid pair of British travellers have lost most of their possessions when their campervan (above) was stolen from the Huka Falls car park.

There have been thefts from this area before and we believe there are, or used to be, signs warning people not to leave valuables in their vehicles. However, what are people supposed to do when they have no other options open to them? Before now we’ve suggested that major tourist centres in New Zealand provide security lockers for tourist’s valuables, rather like the left luggage lockers found at airports. However, despite tourist thefts reaching epidemic proportions in some parts New Zealand, our suggestions have gone unheeded.

Claire Barnham and Ben Horner had travelled to many countries without incident before arriving in New Zealand in March of 2012, drawn by the scenery and taking full advantage of it by deciding to travel around it in a campervan. It was only whilst there that they, like so many tourists before them, became the victims of crime.

Dodgy Countries

On the trip of a lifetime which began in December 2011, the couple had previously travelled through Turkey, Dubai, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore before arriving in a cold, depressing Christchurch in March 2012. A relieved relative left a comment on their travel blog, saying

“Glad you made it through all the dodgy countries and are now somewhere with flushing toilets! It’s luxury from here on.”

Little did she know that the couple had just entered what could turn out to be the most dodgy country of them all and where they would lose everything.

“We’re now in New Zealand. Spent a few days in Christchurch where it’s very quiet and a bit depressing with everything blocked off because of the earthquake damage. We went to Akoroa, Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. New Zealand is unbelievably beautiful. We arrived in Queenstown and, first thing tomorrow, we’ll start looking for jobs, places to live and shopping for a good coat. It’s bloody cold here!”

Ironically, as they left Queenstown on 21 January this year, headed for a trip around New Zealand and on to Australia and the Pacific Islands, they wrote about the trustworthiness of the locals and how they didn’t even have a key for their front door:

“Today we are leaving Queenstown to spend two months campervanning (check out the amazing renovated camper) around New Zealand before travelling through Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, and Hawaii. We will be updating the blog as we go, here is our entry for Queenstown…
Queenstown – We have spent almost ten months living in Queenstown. It is by far the most beautiful, amazing, energetic little town that either of us have ever been to, let alone lived in. We wi…ll definitely miss the place, and in particular waking up to the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range.
Kiwis are the friendliest and most trustworthy people on earth, we never had to lock our front door (we never even had a key), and could rely on being picked up within five minutes if we had to hitchhike home from town.
We have both worked in jobs that we have enjoyed, both of us guiding at Segway on Q, Claire also working at the Remarkables Primary School and Ben at the British Lolly Shop. We have also ticked off a few things from our bucket lists, including sky diving, bungee jumping, canyon swinging, jet boating, paragliding, quad biking, and white water rafting. We have seen the famous and elusive kiwi bird and cruised through the breath-taking scenery at Milford Sound.
We love you Queenstown and we will be back!”
The couple made it up to the North Island where they visited Kaikoura, comparing it to Skegness, and then wrote about their bitter disappointment at becoming the victims of crime:
“Sooooooooo things have not gone well in the last two weeks. First, our camper was overheating as we were coming to the end of our South Island tour, we got a quote of $3000 for the fix but decided to get a second opinion in Wellington…
…It was whilst enjoying a swim in the naturally heated river in Taupo yesterday that our camper was broken into and stolen. We have lost everything but the swimming clothes we were wearing, and I mean everything – passports, bank cards, clothes, laptop, kindles, iPods, phones, gifts, souvenirs, backpacks, $6000 that we were going to get from a couple that wanted to buy our van at the end of our trip, the list goes on. Without ID we are struggling to access money but are hoping the police will be able to help with this.
Our travel insurance ran out two months ago and we could not renew it from outside of the UK and our car insurance does not include theft. Today we are supposed to be on a wine tour in Hawke’s Bay but instead we are at the home of a wonderful family that have taken us in and kept us going. Without them we would be feeling so much worse, although that does not seem possible right now. We have exactly three weeks left in New Zealand and needless to say our plans have changed. Anyway, we will do our best to enjoy the rest of our travels and will update the blog when we can, Ben & Claire.”
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has for some time given this advice to British nationals visiting New Zealand.

“Crime levels are generally low, but street crime occurs in major towns and cities. Thefts from unattended vehicles, especially hire cars and camper vans in major tourist areas (the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Queenstown) have increased. There has also been an increase in the number of thefts from hotel rooms in some tourist areas. Don’t leave possessions in unattended vehicles even if out of sight in a locked boot. Don’t leave valuables in hotel rooms. Use the hotel safe if possible. Keep passports, travellers’ cheques, credit cards, etc separate.”
We hope the couple manage to get their belongings back before they leave the country in a few weeks time.


Visitors “often targeted” by criminals in NZ (Radio New Zealand) – “The Tourism Industry Association says although New Zealand is a safe place, visitors are often targeted by criminals.It said tourists should take the same precautions they would in their own country…”

Nicole Kleinhoelting, Another German Tourist Loses All in New Zealand – “New Zealand’s reputation as a safe tourism destination took another hammer blow today with the news that one more foreign tourist has been robbed in the country, this time whilst on a Lord of the Rings tour in the South Island. 25 year old German tourists Nicole Kleinhoelting had travelled through both New York and Chicago without a problem, it was only when she arrived in New Zealand she was robbed of everything she owned…”

German tourists ask for help after theft – Two German tourists are appealing for help after their van was stolen from Hagley Park.  Westphal Constanin and Lukas Kannenderg, both 20, have been travelling around New Zealand since October in a white Ford van.   On Saturday, the friends parked their van at Hagley Park and went into the city to explore.  When they returned about two hours later, the van had vanished…”

Tourists continue to be targets for criminals in New Zealand – American woman assaulted on the Huka Falls walking track.

Korean tourist beaten and robbed in Taupo – an international safe community

French Public Get to Hear About Tourist Crime in New ZealandA” dream campervan holiday for two young French women is in tatters after an opportunistic thief broke into their van at Rabbit Island and took their valuables – and their story is likely to be read across France…”

4 thoughts on “British tourists lose it all at Huka Falls, Taupo

  1. Of course. Short cylce Tourism or ‘The Amazement Effect’ is what makes the country rich. So keep them stupid is a good motto!

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