Earthquake thief to spend three years behind bars

A brazen thief has been sentenced to three years in prison for looting a property during tsunami evacuations.

Tama Tapine, 24, broke into a property during evacuations in Christchurch after the Kaikoura earthquake in the early hours of November 14 last year.

Tapine's victims were a family-of-four who returned to their home in the suburb of New Brighton to find their property had been ransacked. He took more than $16,000 of belongings, including a car.

Melissa Mill said her daughter's wireless microphone system which she needed for a hearing impairment was among the things taken.

A Givealittle page set up for the Mills' family raised more than $47,000 in three days.

At the time, police investigated more than 19 individual cases of looting across the area while people were evacuating their homes to safety.

Authorities warned that those behind the brazen thefts could expect a heavy hand when caught.

"I can assure Cantabrians that these burglaries will be investigated rigorously and those responsible will be held to account where appropriate," Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said.

"This sort of offending really scrapes the bottom of the barrel, especially for Cantabrians who have endured so much heartache in similar circumstances over the last five years."

Three people were also arrested but later let off after looting a stranded train near Kaikoura.

Between them they took items including frying pans, baby formula, tools, cookies, and a 50cc minibike from the train, which was trapped between two landslides. 

In their defence they claimed they had to steal things because they couldn't get access to any supplies because they were stranded too.