Suspicious fires point to boys aged 11, 13

By Mike Dinsdale


Whangarei police are speaking to two boys aged 13 and 11 over three suspected arsons in the past week, including of a cafe and the Smeaton Drive Community Hall.

Sergeant Neil Pennington, of Whangarei police, said the boys were discovered near the community hall not long after it was set alight about 11pm on Thursday. The two were also suspected of trying to break into cars at the nearby Bunnings Warehouse about 7.30pm on Thursday and were also being spoken to about a suspicious fire at the Roadhouse Lunchbar and Cafe in Rewa Rewa Rd at 7.10pm on Monday and a suspicious scrub fire in Smeaton Drive about 5pm that night.

Mr Pennington said police would also speak to the pair to see if they have been part of a bunch of young people hanging around in Rewa Rewa Rd, causing problems during recent evenings.

"We've had a number of reports from business owners in Rewa Rewa Rd that there have been a group of 8 to 13-year-olds hanging around on the road, usually between 5pm and 7pm, causing problems, including smashing windows with rocks," he said.

Whangarei specialist fire safety investigator Gary Beer said that when firefighters arrived at the hall on Thursday a fire had been started on the deck in front of a door.

"They weren't sure as to the cause, so requested police and Fire Safety Service to investigate," Mr Beer said.

He said the fire was quickly brought under control by firefighters using a hose and damage was restricted to the decking area.

Smeaton Drive Community Committee spokeswoman Kim Anderson said the attack on the hall, which was the centre of the community's activities, was gut wrenching.

"There have been several other fires in our community recently and we think there are new children that have moved into the area," Ms Anderson said.

She and others in the group had spent the past six or seven years trying to make the area a safer place to live in - including painting over a graffitied fence into the area and a major refurbishment of the community hall - but needed help and resources to run programmes for the young people of the area.

An after-school life skills course used to run from the hall, but the funding was cancelled and more such programmes were needed for the area, Ms Anderson said.

"We've just started a baby group at the hall, but will need it all fixed before they can start again on Tuesday," she said.

"A while ago, Statistics NZ released statistics saying that Raumanga as a whole was the country's most deprived area and I would have thought that would have seen those government agencies come to help us. You can't do it all yourselves as a community."

Ms Anderson said the community hall was possibly the most used in the district and it hurt the whole community to see it targeted.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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