New Zealand - Stolen boats being dismantled, repurposed, shipped overseas - police

Mandatory boat registration is not the answer to the issue of boat theft, industry leaders say.

Baz Kirk, deputy director of engagement, communications and coordination at Maritime New Zealand, said there were no laws around registration of recreational boats, and no plans to change that any time soon.

That is despite police data detailing hundreds of boats of all shapes, sizes and colours reported as stolen.

Senior Constable Adrian Howitt, Police Coastal Master in the Maritime Unit, said about 1030 boats had been reported as stolen to police between 2015 and 2019.

"Nearly all of them are runabouts on trailers, as opposed to yachts on moorings. Thefts tend to occur at residential dwellings, commercial sites, at the roadside while for sale and from boat yards," Howitt said.

Other than certain ships, regular boats don't have to be registered in New Zealand, however jetskis and personal water crafts (PWCs) have to be registered with local authorities.

While many outboards do have serial numbers, Howitt said they were "easily removed".

Peter Busfield, executive director of the New Zealand Marine Industry Association, said he barely ever heard of stolen boats  but when he did it was power boats, rigid hull inflatables, or jetskis.

"There's no need for registration of boats ... having registration of every canoe and dinghy in New Zealand would be impractical, it would cost more than the boat after a period of time."

From a health and safety point of view, there didn't seem to be a need for registration either, Busfield said.

The recovery rate for stolen boats was about 20 per cent.

Howitt said that was because they could be split up into the trailer, outboard and hull and sold separately, and then they were  often "sold and sold on again at a fraction of their true cost".

r other permanent structure when not in use." (File photo)

"Stolen boats get moved around the country, and sometimes even wind up shipped overseas. The appearance is often changed, and many buyers have no idea they're buying stolen goods," Howitt said.

New Zealand Power Boat Association patron Dennis Dustin said the trade for boat parts was lucrative, with a V8 motor alone fetching tens of thousands of dollars.

"[Our members] don't leave them around for someone to pinch them, [they're] too expensive and very hard to replace, they're always under lock and key."

It was more "pleasure boats" disappearing, Dustin said.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said boats kept in trailers at the front of properties were vulnerable, even when chained to a structure.

Grafton recommended owners keep boats out of sight, and add serial numbers or other identifying marks to areas unlikely to be checked or painted over by thieves.

The total number of boats in New Zealand is estimated to be between 650,000 and 700,000, according to the Marine Industry Association.


*  Be aware of paying a cheap price for a boat that's obviously worth a lot more.

* Locate the serial number of the outboard motor, or if it has one, the serial number of the boat.

* Does the registration date of the trailer match the manufacturing date of the boat?

* Confirm the details of the seller, trace the boat's ownership history, and ask the seller how long they've had the boat and why they're they selling it.

* Check if the trailer is stolen, or if money is owed on the boat.

* If you purchase a stolen boat that is eventually recovered by police, the boat will be confiscated and you may be charged with a criminal offence.

Source: NZ Police


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Author: Andre Chumko