It had no architectural or aesthetic value whatsoever, but Kaitaia Gun Club president Mark Shaw was sad to see the heap of charred timbers and almost new corrugated iron, all that was left of the clubrooms, in Okahu Road on Tuesday morning.

The Kaitaia Fire Brigade was called at about 3am, and spent some two hours extinguishing the fire, although Chief Fire Officer Craig Rogers said it had been burning for some time before the appliance arrived.

"I imagine it was exploding fibrolite that woke someone up," he said, "but there wasn't much we could do."

The building, which gun club president Mark Shaw said had begun life as a prefabricated school classroom, was moved to the Okahu Road site in the 1970s. It was home to the now defunct Kaitaia Round Table service club for some years, and had long been home to the gun club. It had not been insured.

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"I'm really sorry to see this has happened," Mr Shaw said.

The corrugated iron roof had been replaced last year, he added, and while a fire investigator was not due until yesterday, he had little doubt that the fire was suspicious.

The worst of the damage had been done at the western end, some distance from where the power supply entered the building, and in any event the power had been turned off.

If it was arson it would not be the first time the club had attracted unwelcome attention, he added. Its other building nearby had been broken into many times, the thieves helping themselves to the likes of tea, coffee and extension cords.