A shipwrecked boat on a remote East Coast beach has been ransacked as police and the harbourmaster work together to determine its fate.
Police have been struggling to contact the boat's owners following a dramatic rescue last month, when three people and a dog were winched to safety in big swells.
On 9 April, the crew of ex-fishing trawler San Rosa sent out a mayday call off the coast of Tokomaru Bay - about 90km north of Gisborne.
The boat was 10 nautical miles out to sea, en route from Tauranga to Marlborough when it encountered four-metre swells.
After sending out a call for help just before midday, the occupants of the boat were winched to safety by a helicopter and flown to Gisborne, leaving the 18 metre trawler adrift at sea.
Another boat was sent to tow the San Rosa, but was told to turn around.
Six days later, on 15 April, the boat washed ashore at a remote beach near Tikitiki, having survived ex-tropical cyclone Fili.
But cleaning up the aftermath has not been straightforward. Police said they have had a hard time contacting the owners, who are still responsible for the vessel. If they cannot be reached, the district council may have to step in.
On Tuesday, Gisborne District Council harbourmaster Peter Buell and regional on-scene commander Phil Nickerson inspected the boat at a remote section of beach near Tikitiki.
Wedged in the sand at a 45-degree angle, the San Rosa has been slowly eroding with each incoming tide. Its interior has been stripped, and the bulk of its electronic equipment removed. A fridge left horizontal on the deck, with a mango-flavoured ice cream tub the final remnant of human occupation.
Most of the remaining fuel appeared to have been syphoned, and there was no life raft attached, Buell noted.
A metal rack that may have once housed solar panels was also empty.
"There's obviously a lot of equipment missing, which isn't a surprise," Buell said.
"The boat's electronics, copper wiring and stainless steel fittings have value, so I'm not surprised to see that type of thing going. The hull in general was in not too bad condition ... a couple of planks sprung, but that's about it.
"There's some other minor damage, but on the whole it doesn't look too bad. The engine compartment looked reasonably dry."
Buell said it was possible it had only been a small fault that caused the boat to stop running, such as a broken fuel pump.
But the conditions were not favourable on 9 April, and when the crew feared the vessel might capsize, a plan to tow the boat to safety was superseded by immediate evacuation, a Maritime New Zealand spokesperson said.
Now attention had turned to getting the boat off the beach.
Buell said the owners needed to "clean up their mess", and that two options were available: Remove the boat and destroy it, or transfer it to another location for repairs.
If they did not comply in time, the council would step in and complete the job under the Maritime Transport Act and send the bill, he said.
"They'll be given a time frame to arrange for having it removed, and that could vary. It'll be a matter of a week or two as opposed to a month or two.
"What it comes down to is leaving it on the beach is not a suitable response."
Buell said the eroding boat posed an ecological risk, with the potential for metals and paint to seep into the natural environment.
"It's no different to someone trying to leave their car on the beach. You don't want old wrecks appearing all over the place, you want them cleaned up."
The 55-tonne boat was purchased in Tauranga, and Buell said a salvage mission would involve a crane, a truck, and a lot of digging.
A Coastguard spokesperson said they understood the boat had suffered an electrical failure.
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