New Zealand: Safe but Don’t Let your Guard Down

After deciding to spend the South Pacific cyclone season in New Zealand, US cruisers Katie and Matt Monahan purchased a car so they could tour the country. Unfortunately the car was stolen from the Opua marina car park in the Bay of Islands and in this report Katie recounts what happened, with some words of caution.

Published 1 month ago

Knowing we would be spending an extended period of time in New Zealand for cyclone season and a desire to explore, we purchased a car soon after arrival. It was actually purchased from another cruiser and for a reasonable price as compared to renting a car.

We had four great months with our car, driving up and down the north and south island. At the end of January, on a rainy day, I went to take my dog for a walk and noticed that our car, parked in front of security cameras, in the Opua Marina (Bay of Islands) parking lot, was gone.

I immediately called the police to report it missing and they had already found the car as it was involved in a high speed chase resulting in the police setting spike strips out to stop it,causing thousands of dollars in damage.

I was able to see the car in the wreck yard the next day, thanks to some amazing cruisers who helped me. Consistently, the police I spoke to said, “I hope you have insurance because you likely won’t get anything from the kids who stole it”.

The more we spoke to people about the incident, the more similar stories we heard. The day our car got stolen, another car was broken into just a few hundred yards from ours. The next week, three cars were set on fire.

Grand theft is not a felony in NZ and minors typically get a slap on the wrist. They get charged with “joy riding” – even though security cameras spotted the kids with our car attempting to steal from the general store as well. We were told that this is a common occurrence and we should not hold our breath to get any reparations. We were able to go to a “family conference” with one of the 15 year olds who stole the car and their parents. We were able to talk to the offender and the parents agreed to pay back half of the damage in installments.

This is not to discourage cruisers from purchasing a car when traveling to NZ, as it is much less expensive than renting, and you can explore as much of the island as you see fit. However, I highly recommend getting insurance as well as a wheel lock for your steering wheel.

In addition to car theft, there have been several dinghy thefts here in Opua since we arrived in October. We also spoke to a few locals anchored in the bay who have had items stolen from their boats when they are at work. New Zealand gets a reputation for being one of the safest places in the world, however theft here seems to be on the rise, and Opua seems to be a target as many people are transient.

All this to say, New Zealand is a great place, but don’t let your guard down.

Katie and Matt Monahan
SV Searcher


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.


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