Mataora Ngametua was convicted of burglary and contempt of court.
At about 7pm on October 14, Ngametua was out feeding his pigs. JP Bernice Manarangi said he decided to go round to his neighbours’ home and broke into it, hoping to find some cash.
He entered through an unlocked door and found a gas cylinder, a packet of milk, butter, mincemeat, lamb chops, sausages and two cartons of cigarettes. He also took a pair of jandals and a bag.
He owned up to police a week later, saying his actions were due financial hardship. The victim, his neighbour, understood and felt sorry for him and the hardship he faced.
Cook Islands Security has warned that “anything that’s not bolted down” will be a target of theft, as times get tougher and people get desperate.
Rebeka Buchanan, from counselling organisation Punanga Tauturu Inc, was understanding of the decisions people will have to make as times get tougher. That didn’t mean stealing food was okay.
“I don’t think it will be justifiable,” she said. “It will be understandable because of what they are going through. Instead, people need to bring those issues to their punas first to see if they can help – they have also mentioned the kind of support they can offer.
“The punas should also put out the call for help and support to their communities. As they say, we are all in this together – that's why people will be willing to give a little.”
Social commentator Thomas Wynne said: “Theft is never justifiable. It’s the fact people are so hungry and cannot feed their families without some resorting to theft that is unjustifiable.
“A living wage gives a soft landing to most in that situation apart from the few who would rather steal then when given the chance to work.”