Solar system stolen

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STOLEN SOLAR SYSTEM: Wires can still be seen hanging from where solar panels used to be on Fish & Game’s Matata shed. Photo Louis Klaassen D7118-11

A STEEL reinforced door was not enough to stop thieves who broke into a Fish & Game concrete shed and took off with a complete solar power system.

The thieves made off with solar panels from the roof, and batteries and an inverter from inside the building.

Fish and Game representative Eben Herbert said it was particularly disappointing that this system had been stolen as it had been set up as an alternative clean green method of maintaining water levels in the wetland.

“We received innovation funding from the [Bay of Plenty] Regional Council to assist with setting it up, and everybody who worked on the project including designers, engineers and electricians did so at a reduced rate on the basis they were contributing to the environmental benefits the system would create.”

The system was designed to augment water levels in the wetland during summer when it would otherwise dry up.

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Due to winter rain there is enough water in the wetland but without the system it will likely be dry by early summer, putting the ecosystem at risk.

Mr Herbert said the replacement value of the stolen items was around $12,000 but he expected that repairing the damage and reinstalling the system would cost an additional $5000 to $7000.

“Whoever stole the items would certainly be able to use them. They took everything required to set up a reasonable-sized operational solar system capable of supplying power for a small house or bach, or whatever else.

“It is likely it will be used rather than on sold as parts,” Mr Herbert said.

Whakatane police Senior Sergeant Yvonne Parker said the steel reinforced door would be extremely heavy and awkward to move, which indicates more than one person was involved in the theft.

The theft happened between 1am Sunday and 2pm on Tuesday, the thieves accessed the site by cutting farm fences and driving a four-wheel drive vehicle through.

“Police and Fish & Game would like to hear from anyone who may have seen this theft take place or have seen any of the property, which is a valuable resource to keep this wetland site at its optimal performance,” said Mrs Parker.

Information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 500 111 or at any police station.

charlotte.jones@whakatanebeacon.co.nz