Whanau drug feud blamed in bach fires

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Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Six baches on a remote stretch of Far North coast have been burned to the ground in an apparent feud relating to a massive drug bust.

The baches, all with long histories of family use, were destroyed on December 15, near Whangape, north of the Hokianga Harbour.

In mid-November police shut down what they said was a major methamphetamine manufacturing operation at Whangape.

Nine people were arrested, three of them from Whangape, and $2 million worth of assets was seized. Police also found $300,000 worth of methamphetamine, or P, a lab, protective clothing, breathing apparatus, and $154,000 in cash - $100,000 of which was buried in a paddock.

The arrests and property seizures are understood to have sparked a bitter feud within local families and hapu. A number of people contacted the Northland Age to say the fires were misguided revenge attacks.

Among them is Hilda Halkyard-Harawira, wife of MP and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who said whanau had been accused of being informants, and some kuia and kaumatua were now afraid to look out of their windows in case they too were blamed, she said.

Fire risk management officer Terry Baylis said although the six baches were modest, he could not think of a more beautiful location. They were spread along the coast, including Taite Bay, Okuai Bay and north of Stony Creek.

On the Saturday evening all six baches were standing but the occupants of one found it had been vandalised. When police arrived on Sunday to investigate all six had been destroyed.

Mr Baylis said it appeared the baches had been targeted one by one, with whoever lit the fires making sure each was burned to the ground before moving to the next one.

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