Rustlers target lifestyle block, pregnant ewes

RUSTLERS STRIKE: Christine McNeill is emotionally scarred after 10 of her sheep were rustled from her Ngaruawahia property.
RUSTLERS STRIKE: Christine McNeill is emotionally scarred after 10 of her sheep were rustled from her Ngaruawahia property.

Sheep rustlers sliced a Waikato lifestyle block's flock in two leaving the owner emotionally scarred and several thousand dollars out of pocket.

It's another episode in a form of crime that is estimated to cost New Zealand farmers $120 million a year.

Christine McNeill calls five fertile acres near Ngaruawahia home, but the theft this month left her feeling "sick".

She had no idea that rustlers were operating in the area and decided to speak out to spread the word that the offenders remain at large.

She lost nine heavily pregnant Wiltshire ewes and a lamb, destined for breeding stock, in one night.

They were worth about $350 a head and the lambs fetch from $250-$275. Now she has to pay for an electric gate and further security measures with money she doesn't have.

McNeill first noticed her electric net fencing on the ground while feeding her hens before work on Monday last week.

"I realised all the uprights and stays were missing and thought that's bizarre, what the hell's going on."

She walked further and found the chained gate wide open.

"The adrenaline's kicking in at this stage. I ran over to where my sheep were and realised a lot were missing. I went around the front to close the gate and I saw a corral had been built out of my fencing."

Tyre marks and trails where they'd dragged the helpless animals completed the picture.

McNeill said it was "devastating".

The financial loss and onflow security costs were significant but she described the emotional toll as "horrific".

"I'm an animal person. These weren't pets but I'd walk out to the paddock and the odd one would come over, say hello, and follow me around. They were very docile animals and I knew every one of them. . . Just thinking of what they've done to my animals in their current state, seeing how pregnant they were and the trauma they must have experienced."

McNeill is also worried the rustlers may return.

North Waikato response manager, Senior Sergeant Gill Meadows, said police have not charged anyone in relation to the theft but the case remains open.

Last year police prosecuted rustlers associated with a home kills operation in South Auckland.

"The rural community need to be made aware that thefts are occurring and to be a little bit more vigilant about security. We need to get the message out there that they need to be locking vehicles and keeping an eye out for suspicious vehicles in the area and calling them in."

Meadows said they're also working to develop community support groups in rural areas similar to neighbourhood watch in the towns.


Always padlock gates Install an alarm system Always have somebody on property Do not put stock near the roadside Call 111 if rustlers are suspected

Waikato Times