Locals come to the aid of house fire victims

By Peter de Graaf

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Tane Croft-Ritete, front, with his aunty Astor Toia and grandfather Hamlin James Croft at the scene of the fire which destroyed Tane's future home in Motatau. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
Tane Croft-Ritete, front, with his aunty Astor Toia and grandfather Hamlin James Croft at the scene of the fire which destroyed Tane's future home in Motatau. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

The mid-North community is rallying around a woman and her sons who lost everything they owned in a house fire on the night they were due to move in.

Lottie Croft had been due to move into the old family homestead near Matawaia, south of Kawakawa, on February 13 after 15 years in Australia.

That very evening, while she was having dinner at a relative's home nearby, the historic home burnt to the ground with all her and her boys' possessions.

Volunteers from the Kawakawa Fire Brigade could only stop the fire spreading to a tool shed and another house about 30m away.

Her father, 80-year-old Hamlin Croft, suffered burns to his chest and arm while getting LPG cylinders out of the house but was back working on his farm the next day.

The loss of the homestead, which was at least 120 years old, was a huge blow to the family and particularly to Ms Croft.

The kitchen had just been renovated and she had filled the house with furniture and her possessions in preparation for moving in.

The home was insured but the contents were not. Her boys, aged 11 and 14, also lost their newly bought school uniforms and books.

Since the fire, however, many in the community have rallied around the family to help.

Niece Pamela-Anne Simon-Baragwanath said Bay of Islands College had donated a new uniform and stationery and Kawakawa Farm Centre had given clothing and gumboots, while a family in Australia and neighbours in Motatau had each given $500.

Moerewa-based Far North District Councillor Willow-Jean Prime had also put out an appeal for help.

Ms Croft was reluctant to take the gifts but the family insisted she accept, because it also made the givers feel good.

"Everyone's been very supportive. We're just really grateful," Ms Simon-Baragwanath said.

Ms Croft and her father, who had known the homestead since he was a young boy, were now feeling a lot better and were receiving a lot of family support.

The family was grateful that no one had been badly hurt. Ms Croft and the boys had moved in with her father, who lived across the road, in the meantime.

The fire investigation had yet to be completed but all indications were that the cause was electrical.

-If you want to help the Croft family, call niece Cathryn Baragwanath on 021 024 38317 for an update on what's needed or to arrange a drop-off, most likely in the Kawakawa area. The items lost include hand and power tools Ms Croft had been using to renovate the house, furniture, bedding, kitchenware and clothing.

- Northern Advocate

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