A French hitchhiker accused of destroying a road sign in New Zealand out of frustration he couldn't get a lift for four days is facing a $3,000 bill for the damage. Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre, 27, was arrested and charged with wilful damage after he attacked a road sign in Punakaiki, a popular tourist town on the West Coast of the South Island, on Monday. He appeared in the Greymouth District Court before a registrar on Tuesday and pleaded guilty, despite claiming the sign was already damaged.
It was alleged Rault-Verpre pulled one sign out of the ground and threw it in the nearby Punakaiki River and hurled large rocks at another. Witnesses told police he had verbally abused tourists and locals.
Police prosecutor Don Abbey said Fulton Hogan were seeking $3,000 reparation for the damaged road sign.
Rault-Verpre told the court he had been standing at the side of the road for four days.
"No-one even asked if you want water. If you throw stones at a sign that's already damaged ... they want you to pay $3,000. I didn't move the sign. It was already damaged.
"Now I'm stuck in New Zealand for six months unless I plead guilty. I better swim to Australia," he said. Outside court, he said he had been in New Zealand "way too long".
"You should change the name Nazi Zealand not New Zealand," he said .
Rault-Verpre said he was given two choices by the court.
"I stay stuck for six months because there is no judge or I pay $3,000.
I already pay $3,000 tax in New Zealand because I worked and now I have to pay $3,000 reparation to fix something that isn't even worth anything. There are no judge in the court. What is that? You come to New Zealand and work and you don't even make one cent."
He said he had been to 80 countries.
"I've been to the worst part of the US. The worst American is not an asshole like a New Zealander. In Europe we have judges, we don't charge people and say you pay or you stay six months in New Zealand."
Abbey said he would speak to Fulton Hogan about the amount it would cost to repair the damage.
"Ultimately, they are the people who make the decision on behalf of the New Zealand taxpayer," he said.
Duty lawyer Marcus Zintl, who he initially refused to speak to, said Rault-Verpre disputed the amount of reparation.
"He is being charged for a new sign when they were already old and damaged," he said.
He pleaded guilty and was remanded to reappear in the Christchurch District Court on Friday. He had to surrender his passport.
There's a video of a very unhappy Monsieur Rault-Verpre outside the court here.