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Tractor thief pursued at snail’s pace 


By Julia Wade

8 MF-Tractor2-521In the early hours of a recent Sunday morning, a Kaiwaka couple found themselves embroiled in a chase along State Highway 1, in hot pursuit of a stolen vehicle. 

However unlike the typical scenario of squealing tyres, burning rubber and high acceleration usually associated with auto-thefts, the ‘hot pursuit’ was more akin to a sedate stroll due to the vehicle in question being a 25 horse power tractor, reaching the maximum speed of a mere 12kph. 
The couple, and eventually three police cars, were able to trail the tractor thief at a somewhat leisurely – and tedious – pace as the perp ‘fled’ the scene of the crime. 

The events of the night unfolded when Mark and Pam Ottaway, of Kaiwaka Christmas lights fame, were woken just after midnight on April 15 by the sirens of a passing fire engine. 

While glancing out their window, Pam saw the orange-coloured Kubota tractor pass by. The couple leapt into their car and gave chase, with Mark at the wheel and Pam on the phone to police. 

“Didn’t know where he was off to but we were keen to see how far he would get, as the tractor had enough fuel to get down to Auckland,” Mark says. “We were having a chuckle with the 111 operators… he stuck to the right side of the highway until the cops arrived and then it got a bit scary when he started to drive on the wrong side of the road.”

With sirens on and lights flashing, Mangawhai constable Dale Wewege joined the chase in Te Hana and made attempts to get the thief to pull over. 

“He was very evasive, swerving all over the road and then started heading north,” explained Mark. “Police were waiting in Wellsford who were also stopping traffic from proceeding further north, so I had to manoeuvre in front of the tractor and herd him back towards south. It was a slow, tedious drive. At one point I considered jumping out of the car and running up next to him.” 

The driver persisted in his getaway and the snail-paced convoy continued, collecting two more police cars just before Wellsford. 

“A friend of mine says he heard sirens and went outside to see police lights at a distance and expected a rush of cars to come by,” Mark says. “He waited and waited… said he could have made a cup of tea and come back outside by the time they all passed his place.”  

Although tyre spikes were placed across the highway outside the town, the meandering joy-ride ended when the thief apparently jumped from the tractor and was tasered in the process, handcuffed and arrested. 

From beginning to end the 20km pursuit took an hour and a half, a journey which usually takes just over 20 minutes by car.   

The 25 horsepower Kubota B2710 tractor, with attached grader blade, is housed at the Kaiwaka Sports Association complex, due to Marks role as groundsman and vice chairman. The tractor, which has serviced the grounds of the sports facility for 15 years, was delivered back to its shed safely that night by a friend of Marks, ‘who had a laugh when he heard the story’ despite the very early morning wakeup call. 

Constable Wewege says that although there is a funny side to the incident and speed was not an issue, the chase was still serious. 

“He was found to be intoxicated… could have fallen off the tractor, could have killed himself or someone else as he was often driving on the wrong side of the road and going around blind corners,” he says. “It was very fortunate he didn’t encounter any trucks coming the other way.” 
A 15-year-old Kaiwaka boy has been charged with a number of allegations including driving while suspended, driving intoxicated, dangerous driving and burglary. He has been referred to the police youth aid section. 


Mark and Pam Ottaway after their tractor chase. The little orange Kubota is now back in safe hands.

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