Man charged with attempted murder over attack

AFTERMATH: A campervan parked at Tomatea Point in Golden Bay is cordoned off after an early morning attack.
AFTERMATH: A campervan parked at Tomatea Point in Golden Bay is cordoned off after an early morning attack.

A 59-year-old Christchurch man allegedly involved in an early morning attack on a freedom camping couple in Golden Bay has been charged with two counts of attempted murder.

The man, who has name suppression, was seen at the Nelson police station this afternoon by a judge.

Nelson Bays area commander Inspector Brian McGurk said the man stayed at the station because of concerns over his volatile behaviour.

EMERGENCY: Armed police officer at a roadblock on the Collingwood-Puponga road during this morning's drama
EMERGENCY: Armed police officer at a roadblock on the Collingwood-Puponga road during this morning's drama

Early this morning a couple cowered in their campervan while it was attacked in an apparent row over freedom camping at Pakawau, 40 kilometres east of Takaka.

Armed offenders squad members were flown from Nelson in a chartered helicopter and arrested the man in a nearby house.

He had initially been charged with trying to set fire to the campervan. The man has been remanded in custody for two weeks.

Police said the van's windscreen was smashed and an attempt was made to set fire to it with the couple inside before the attacker left the scene, on the beachfront at Pakawau, a popular holiday spot 40 kilometres west of Takaka.

McGurk said the couple, who had arrived in the area yesterday, were "petrified" but luckily had not been injured. Mid-morning they were at the Takaka police station where they were talking to police and Victim Support staff.

Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews, of Motueka, who co-ordinated the response, said the arrested man and a male friend had arrived at a Pakawau bach last night.

The man allegedly took offence to two campervans parked in a picnic area between the bach and the sea.

During the evening he confronted the campers, and one campervan left.

Police have been told there was yelling and screaming in the early hours of this morning when the man confronted the Chinese couple, a 44-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman.

He allegedly damaged the front of the van and tried to pull out the front part of the windscreen before pouring in methylated spirits and apparently trying to set fire to the van.

A boy living next to the site allegedly saw what happened and was talking to police, who received a 111 call at 5.50am.

This morning the Nissan van, an older model that looks to have been modified, was parked at Tomatea Point near some pine trees by the sand dunes and fenced off by police tape. It was about 80 metres from the nearest bach, at the northern end of Pakawau village, near a single file of holiday baches and family homes.

Andrews appealed for the occupants of the other van that was parked at the reserve last night to contact police.

The Tasman District Council reserve is a popular site for public beach access and there are no signs banning freedom camping.

Golden Bay residents are growing increasingly intolerant of issues posed by freedom campers which include littering and defecating in public places.

The intolerance came to a head last month when the Golden Bay Community Board made an urgent request to the Tasman District Council to have a compliance officer based in the bay to monitor problems. A council officer is monitoring the bay during January and February.

In April last year, freedom campers were forced off land near the Waitapu Bridge spot by angry Golden Bay locals.

Pakawau Old School House cafe owner Robbie Duncan, who also runs the Pakawau Beach Park 500 metres from where the attack happened, said he knew the arrested man and he was a "bloody nice guy".

"He's not a local but he's got a family-owned beach house here, he comes up a few times a year. He's one of the nicest guys who comes in here. But he's obviously got a few issues at the moment."

Duncan said his phone had been ringing off the hook this morning, with people worried about what was going on, but he hadn't heard anything nor seen the helicopter.

"But it sounds like a pretty typical day around here in Pakawau."


5.50am: Police receive a 111 call. Takaka police respond. Four armed offenders squad (AOS) members and a police dog are sent by helicopter.

7.25am: The old Pakawau school site is cleared to land two helicopters with AOS members on board 7.30am: The AOS surrounds a campervan.

7.40am: A man is arrested and Victim Support are called in.

8.25am: Ambulance and fire service are stood down.

- Nelson Mail and