In a surprising wave of crime hitting the agricultural heartland of Hawke’s Bay, fruit growers are grappling with a new menace – fruit rustling.
The latest victim, a blueberry farm in Hastings, has fallen prey to thieves who struck under the cover of darkness.
Unidentified thieves targeted Bay Blueberries, leaving the local community bewildered.
The incident has also left site manager Alyssa Martin shocked.
“We didn’t know what to do. We all just looked at each other and thought, goodness, what on earth has happened?”
It’s been a week since the theft, and the repercussions are still echoing through the farm.
Bay Blueberries owner Marian Hirst told 1News she is still grappling with the aftermath, a significant blow after just finishing cleanup from last year’s cyclone that resulted in a 70 percent loss of their harvest.
“There’s no fruit left, it’s got a ripple effect through the business.. our pickers, we have to find other work for our pickers, supervisors, the pack house team have no work, and then the gate sales,” Hirst said
The thieves left barely left a branch untouched, stripping roughly 700 blueberry bushes bare. Alyssa Martin highlighted the urgency of the operation, speculating it must have been a sizeable group acting swiftly to harvest the fruit and they must have used multiple vehicles.
The stolen blueberries were a crucial part of the farm’s plan to stay afloat until the next harvest. With the loss, the farm is left with only a few trays, leaving summer holidaymakers disappointed.
Hunger holidaymakers visiting the Bay Blueberry ice cream truck expressed their disappointment, and emphasising the consequences of such actions.
One holidaymaker said, “People don’t always think of the consequences of their actions. They get what they wanted, but it means places like this have to suffer.”
In response to the incident, the blueberry farm is redirecting funds originally intended for cyclone recovery to invest in security cameras. This shift in priorities reflects the growing concern among farmers about the rising trend of fruit theft.
While the police have been notified, the farm’s owner is urging anyone with information on the blueberry bandits to come forward