Second arson attack sinks pirate ship

By Doug Laing

1 comment
The damaged pirate ship in the Lions Community Park yesterday. It will be pulled down today, having been damaged beyond repair in a second arson attack in less than 48 hours. Pictured is forlorn Hastings Host Lions Club member Ray Hilliker, a co-ordinator of the park development. Photo / Doug Laing
The damaged pirate ship in the Lions Community Park yesterday. It will be pulled down today, having been damaged beyond repair in a second arson attack in less than 48 hours. Pictured is forlorn Hastings Host Lions Club member Ray Hilliker, a co-ordinator of the park development. Photo / Doug Laing

A Hastings playground pirate ship built in homage to a Splash Planet treasure that was torched by teenage vandals last Easter will itself be scuttled after being damaged in two arson attacks in less than 48 hours.

The final blow came yesterday, soon after the second attack, when Hastings District Council communications manager Diane Joyce announced that the now fenced-off playground feature, in use less than two months, cannot be repaired. It will be pulled down today.

The Fire Service was called to the new Lions Community Park, off Sylvan Rd and adjacent to Splash Planet, at 5.29am yesterday, and managed to stop the structure from going up in flames. But at least three of the major supports were badly charred, making it unsafe.

Finishing touches being put to the boat before the playground was opened at the end of November.
Finishing touches being put to the boat before the playground was opened at the end of November.

The fire came less than 48 hours after a similar call just after 7am on Friday, after which council staff worked during the day to have the pirate ship back in use for the weekend.

While it was part of a park being planned by the council and the Hastings Host Lions Club over the past two years, and was specifically brought from Germany, the ship was a popular public choice for a playground item after a 20m-long, 38-year-old wooden Splash Planet pirate ship was destroyed by arsonists during Easter last year.

Ray Hilliker, a Lions club co-ordinator of the project, said there were more than 200 responses when the club canvassed the neighbourhood about what was wanted for the children of the area, and there was another "huge" response when an open day was held on the site to develop ideas for a playground, which opened on November 29.

Yesterday he vowed that the club would finish the playground, although he was lost for answers as to why anyone would damage a playground for children. He called for ideas on how to protect the playground in the future.

Visitors, however, were quick to condemn those responsible.

"String them up," said one young woman, standing with a young child. "Kick their arse."

A woman who walks through the park every morning said: "Name and shame them."

While police investigate the twin attacks - and wonder what someone has against replica pirate ships - disappointed Mayor Lawrence Yule said the council would start looking during the week at what could be done about replacing what had been a popular playground item since the park opened.

On Friday it was reported that damage caused that morning would cost at least $3000 to repair, but this time it could not be repaired.

The Splash Planet pirate ship, built in 1977 in a moored position beside a pond in what was then known as Fantasyland, was destroyed in a morning fire on April 5 last year.

Worth more than $300,000, it was insured but no decisions had yet been made on a replacement.

Three youths were apprehended by police after that fire. The eldest, who was 18, was sentenced in August in Napier District Court to six months' community detention to be followed by 12 months' probationary supervision, and was ordered to pay $3680 reparation for his role in starting the fire.

Police are making public appeals similar to those that followed last April's fire, which led to catching some of the offenders and included some links to other fires.

They are seeking information about anyone seen in or near the park on early Friday and yesterday morning, and others who were frequenting the park at night.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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