LATEST: A 20-year-old man has been arrested and will be charged with theft for allegedly stealing a prize Christmas tree.
The 3.5 metre high tree was chopped down and taken from Cedar Lodge Nurseries on Sunday night and discovered at the roundabout on McLean St and Queen St yesterday morning.
Constable Trenton Hoeata said information leading to the New Plymouth man's arrest had been provided anonymously.
The man is due to appear in court next week.
Police are still looking to talk to three people from Waitara who are also believed to have been involved.
Cedar Lodge Nurseries owners Pip McVicar and Luke Webster were devastated the highly decorated tree had gone missing.
''It's unbelievable that someone would do that. It was our showcase tree and the one we were growing for the Bowl next year.''
Security cameras in the centre of Waitara snapped the white single-cab Ford Courier ute carrying the tree around the roundabout around 10:40pm on Sunday night.
Constable Trenton Hoeata said the tree had been dangling off the back of the ute.
"It looks like someone might have been on the back of the ute hanging on to it. It's a big tree, it would've taken some hanging on to."
He said it was unclear whether the tree had fallen off the ute or been purposely dumped
Each year Cedar Lodge donates a large and specially groomed tree to be used on stage at Christmas at the Bowl, but for three years running theives have targeted the trees and taken the best ones.
''This is something we do, donating the trees, it's hard work and when they get stolen it just makes you wonder why we even bother.''
She said they usually planted two trees at the same time, and would then choose the best one to go to the Bowl.
They are considering no longer growing trees in the paddock by the roadside because even the barbed wire and electric fence do not seem to deter theives, she said.
''I actually feel sorry for the public because we're always getting people saying they love looking at the trees, and their kids love seeing them.''
Shortly after she reported the theft to police yesterday morning she recieved a Facebook message from Waitara 100% Appliances owner Roger Williams saying he had seen the tree at the roundabout.
She said the nursery had dressed the tree in big red bows and gold decorations, with a large star worth $60 perched at the top.
The tree was found with some of the decorations still attached, but most were broken or missing and the star was gone.
"It's so much worse because it's just been dumped. It's not even being used and it's not like its been stolen by someone who couldn't afford to have one at home."
Several Waitara businesses suggested the tree could be stood on the roundabout, fixed up, re-decorated and possibly tied to the clocktower to prevent it being stolen again.
-If anyone has information about the ute or the theft of the tree please contact Constable Mark Stevenson on 7549204 or ring Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111
- Taranaki Daily News
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