The theft of essential surf lifesaving equipment has compromised search and rescue efforts in the Coromandel and Northern Bay of Plenty.
Last night, solar panels for the emergency radio network were stolen from the radio repeater site on the Whangamata peninsula.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says the theft is devastating.
"The replacement cost of the equipment is around $6,000, which is tough for a voluntary organisation, but it's not just the monetary value of the theft, he says.
"Due to the custom nature of the gear, it will take three to four weeks to construct the brackets needed to hold the panels onto the antenna site. This is going to severely compromise our lifeguarding operations over the busiest time of year, the Christmas holidays.
The site was set up around eight weeks ago and required a large truck and trailer and cherry picker to get the gear into place.
Mr Mundy says it must have taken a small group of people to undertake the theft and they must have been on site for a good couple of hours.
"Hopefully someone has seen something and can help us locate the missing equipment. If we can even just get those brackets back, then we can get the system up and running again as soon as possible," he says.
This is the second theft of essential surf lifesaving equipment this month.
On December 2, the theft of two quad bikes, newly installed radio equipment, a rescue board and some first aid gear were stolen from Pukehina Surf Rescue.
The police have been contacted and anyone who has information about the theft is urged to contact police immediately.
Contact Whangamata Police on (07) 858-6200 or phone the anonymous Crimestoppers number on 0800 555 111.
Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823