One of the three Maori carvings at the entrance to the Otumoetai Pa Historic Reserve has been set alight, just two months after the site's official opening.
Tauranga fire service Senior Station Officer Len Sabin said firefighters were called to the reserve on Levers Rd, Matua, at 3.30am yesterday.
"Someone had decided to climb up to the top and mount a sign on top of it, and somebody had set fire to the grass skirts," Mr Sabin said.
The blaze destroyed the grass skirt and blackened parts of the carving.
The official opening of the pa and the gateway carvings, created by Damien Kohu and Whare Thompson, was held on December 6.
Mr Sabin said there was not too much damage but repairs would have to be carried out.
"Someone's gone to weeks and weeks of effort to do that, and someone's come and set fire to them."
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said it was sad to hear of the damage to the new instalments.
"It's a desecration of a site that's very historic to Tauranga, both from a Maori perspective and a European perspective.
"It's just a silly event and should not have happened, and it does not reflect Tauranga at all.
"It's very rare. Down on The Strand there are carvings and on the new Harbour Link [which are undamaged]. Regrettably, it does happen from time to time."