Marae ‘vul­ner­a­ble’

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Aotea’s Horouta ki Poneke marae nar­rowly avoided a ma­jor in­ferno when it was tar­geted in the Queen’s Birth­day Week­end ar­son at­tack.

A fire was lit un­der an over­hang­ing part of the marae’s wharekai which is full of gas cylin­ders.

If the fire had not been spot­ted early by a neigh­bour, the wooden struc­ture would have soon burned to the ground. A 43-year-old Porirua man has been charged at Lower Hutt District Court with 10 counts of ar­son.

More than a dozen fires were lit around the Welling­ton re­gion over Queen’s Birth­day week­end, in­clud­ing six in the Porirua re­gion – at Tony’s Tire Ser­vice, Porirua Gospel Chapel, St Al­ban’s church in Pau­ata­hanui, a house near Kenepuru hos­pi­tal, a por­taloo in Tawa, and Horouta marae.

The fires cost the Fire Ser­vice more than $700,000, as 194 fire­fight­ers had to be dis­patched in 46 trucks to deal with the flames.

Vul­ner­a­ble build­ings were tar­geted, says Porirua fire safety of­fi­cer Rus­sell Postle­waight.

‘‘[They] were soft tar­gets. They’re build­ings that in week­ends are not oc­cu­pied. They don’t have ex­ten­sive se­cu­rity sys­tems.’’

The marae fire was started at 9.30pm on June 5. It started in a child’s pram, where vinyl shoes and rub­bish were doused with fuel. De­spite an ad­join­ing flat be­ing oc­cu­pied, it fell to a neigh­bour across the street, Ben Sut­ton, to put out the fire.

Horouta marae el­der Bill Tan­go­hau had felt Maraeroa was not a tar­get be­cause it is al­ways busy at night with meet­ings and fu­ner­als. The fire made him re­alise how vul­ner­a­ble the wooden wharekai is. ‘‘It wouldn’t take much to get this place go­ing.’’ He’s putting a fire safety plan in place, as he be­lieves the marae will be tar­geted again.

‘‘This isn’t the fin­ish of it.’’

Near miss: Horouta marae el­der Bill Tan­go­hau in­spects the re­mains of a fire lit un­der a room full of gas cylin­ders.

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