It has taken a whole week for the crime to be made public, but that is only one of the mysteries of a raid that destroyed hundreds of genetically-modified trees at a research centre in Rotorua.
Not one of the 375 plants in the genetically-modified pine tree study into herbicide resistance and reproductive was spared and no one has claimed responsibility for the crime. Police are now looking for public help to catch the GM break-in gang.
“They’re criminals aren’t they? They’ve broken the law, they’ve put themselves above the law,” says CEO of Scion, Warren Parker.
No one from the outside world was meant to enter the testing area, but they got around an outer fence and then, amazingly, dug under the inner security fence before destroying the trees.
“The inner security fence is two metres high with electric wiring and electronic triggering systems but by digging underneath it they avoided some of those controls,” says Mr Parker.
And by some of those controls, he means all of those controls. Staff did not notice the break-in until they returned to work on Tuesday, after the long Easter break.
The trees were planted last August for a trial that was meant to take two to three years. Now, new genetically modified trees will have to be planted, and the trial started again.
The incident is the second security break at Scion in four years. And the group GE free says it is not good enough.
“How the hell did they not have 24-hour observation of a very significant field trial in New Zealand which many people would be even surprised to know happened,” says Jon Carapiet of GE Free.
GE Free had been actively monitoring this latest trial but insists it had nothing to do with the illegal break-in.
And it is not sure what it thinks about it either.
“I don’t condone or condemn it,” says Mr Carapiet.
“This technology has substantial benefit to New Zealand, that’s why we’ve been so persistent in pursuing this,” says Mr Parker.
The genetically-modified security breach is embarrassing and expensive - It will cost $400,000 to replant and $600,000 in lost research time.