The Mid North community is rallying around a Moerewa family who have lost almost everything they owned in a house fire.

The Potae family - June Veronica Potae (known as Ronnie), Lee Nankivell, and teenage children Kacey and Wiremu Potae - had only weeks earlier moved into a small rental in Taumatamakuku Settlement, on State Highway 1 between Moerewa and Kawakawa.

On a chilly Saturday night a week ago they went out for dinner, stoking the fire before they left to make sure the house was warm when they got home.

Neighbours raised the alarm about 8pm when they saw smoke pouring from the three-bedroom bungalow. Four fire crews attended from Kawakawa and Paihia but the house was burning fiercely when they arrived.


A fire investigator believed the chimney had caught fire with the flames then spreading into the roof space. The family had only just moved and had not yet arranged contents insurance.

Since the blaze friends and whanau have rallied around to help the Potaes get back on their feet. Family friends Latasha and Alisha Takimoana have started a Givealittle page called Help Lee & Ronnie which had raised $2300 as of Friday.

Their father, Richard Takimoana, said a lot of people were eager to donate household items to replace what the family had lost. That would be helpful once they had a new place to live but in the meantime the most useful thing was cash so they could start replacing basic needs such as clothing.

Their teenage children had also lost their sporting uniforms and gear. Wiremu, 15, was an up-and-coming rugby player while Kacey, 18, played netball for Fideliter in Whangarei and the Bubz in Kerikeri.

Ms Potae, a kapa haka teacher at Paihia School, said the family had moved in with her mother in Moerewa while they looked for a new place to live.

She said the fire was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone. She urged whanau to get their chimneys and fireplaces checked, make sure they had working smoke alarms, and to never take fire safety for granted.

She felt overwhelmed by the awhi (help, support) the family had received since the blaze.

Meanwhile, Waitangi artist Paitangi Ostick has put prints from three newly completed paintings and a photo print from Waitangi Day on TradeMe with all proceeds going to the family. The paintings depict the deities Hinenuitepo, Hinemoana and Hine Pukohurangi.

"They're such nice people, they're a wonderful family. I just wanted to do something," she said.

■ The Givealittle page is