Offers of help that have rolled in for two French tourists left distraught after their car and possessions were swiped from a supermarket car park in Nelson on Friday have restored their faith in this country.
Loic Constans and Adrien Gelis had been on their way to Christchurch and had made a special detour to Nelson from the Picton ferry to drop off a French backpacker they had just met. They pulled into the Countdown supermarket off Halifax St to stock up on some food supplies, locked their car, but returned to the car park to find it gone.
At precisely that moment Nelson man Duncan MacFarlane pulled into the car park in the identical type of car - a green 1996 Subaru Legacy Grand Wagon. The tourists' brief moment of joy that their car had been returned was soon dashed.
MacFarlane said he could tell from their body language something was wrong, so stopped to help.
"They had their shopping bags in their hands, and there were tears. Lots of tears."
MacFarlane took them home and treated them to some Nelson hospitality. All they had left were the clothes they were in, and passports and credits cards they took with them while shopping.
Constans, 20, and Gelis, 21, both from Toulouse in southern France, had been on their way to Christchurch where they planned to get work building. They arrived in New Zealand in February and have worked their way down the country. They were both very upset when the theft happened, and said they wanted to go home early, but since then the many offers of support have swayed their opinions.
MacFarlane was hosting the pair as long as they needed, and a friend of his had taken them shopping. There had been "generous" offers of accommodation and Stray Travel had offered to take them around the South Island on a tour for free.
"They are being well looked after and entertained.
"They were quite angry on Friday night, but since then through all the offers streaming in, they are blown away with the generosity of New Zealanders. They just can't believe that others should care about them."
Gelis said "the people are very sympathetic and very good".
"Yesterday we wanted to go back home, now we want to stay in New Zealand. We can restart a new story."
Items stolen with the car included several hundred dollars in cash, iPads, cameras and clothing. They were more concerned about getting their photos back, than the car.
The backpacker they met on the ferry, who they knew only as Pierre, also had all his gear stolen. He was making his way to Christchurch at the weekend and planned to catch a flight to Sydney today.
Constans said they had wanted to come to New Zealand to fulfil a dream they had of a place that was "pure", played great rugby and which was so far away.
Gelis believed the type of car was a particular target because it seemed easy to break into.
Police were still looking for the vehicle.
If you have seen the green 1996 Subaru Legacy Grand Wagon, registration YX 8359 contact the Nelson police on 03 546 3840
- The Nelson Mail