Thieves make off with $25k digger

01:38, Feb 19 2014
Takeuchi excavator
TARGET: This Takeuchi excavator, worth more than $25,000, was among equipment stolen from a Christchurch asphalt company's yard in the early hours of Monday. Police say there is a concerning trend emerging in the district, where construction equipment is being stolen from yards on a regular basis.

Night-time thieves stole a digger and several thousand dollars worth of tools from a Christchurch construction yard in what the owner believes was a "stealing-to-order" heist.

The break-in at the Austin Asphalt-occupied depot in Old West Coast Rd, Templeton, came only weeks after an offender slashed 37 tyres on the company's trucks.

It is also the latest in a string of thefts at construction sites across Canterbury in recent months. 

Police said the offenders entered the yard through a fence about 2am on Monday. 

They used a bolt cutter to break into a locked container and stole several thousand dollars worth of tools including concrete cutters, breakers and laser levels.

A Takeuchi excavator, worth more than $25,000, was also taken. The excavator was on a trailer, which they attached to staff member's van and drove away. 


Owner-operator Roger Austin said the incidents "wear you down".

He had been hit twice since just before Christmas, when a vandal went to the yard and slashed 37 truck tyres and smashed about six windscreens. 

"This latest one is stealing to order," Austin said.

The offenders took only 17 minutes to get in, steal the gear and get out.

"These guys knew what they wanted. They knew what they were doing. They knew how to avoid the cameras. They'll be on-selling," he said.  

The theft had delayed work he had lined up in Akaroa by a week. 

He was also effectively working a "gang down" until the equipment could be replaced, which he expected would take up to a month. 

"It really affects the guys," he said. 

"It's a tough industry. You've got to have things going correctly to get your margins. We're committed to doing jobs for clients, now we can't meet that work-load.

"New Zealand has that low-life. It's not unexpected [but] it starts to wear you down."

Police said there was a concerning trend of commercial burglaries targeting tools and heavy machinery.

"There is clearly a demand for these items, which is being driven by unscrupulous people who are knowingly receiving stolen property," Detective Senior Sergeant Corrie Parnell said.

Those buying the stolen goods were "perpetuating the illicit trade".

They put themselves and others at risk of being ripped off, he said.

Police were reviewing security footage from Monday's incident.

The trailer registration is U594Y. 

The van is a white Nissan Vanette, registration PM3659.

Blakely Construction also uses the site, but none of their gear was stolen.

Canterbury Registered Master Builders' Association president Clive Barrington said earlier that theft within the industry was directly linked to the post-earthquake construction "gold-rush".

It was up to the industry to make sure sites were secure and building materials not brought in too early, he said. 

Parnell urged contractors and builders to take extra care over their security, be that at building sites or yards and lock-ups. 

He also urged tradies and contractors to record serial numbers of valuable tools and equipment. 

In many cases investigators had recovered stolen tools and equipment but struggled to return items to the owners because details had not been recorded, he said.

The Press