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Watch NZH Local Focus: Rebuilding after the Whitianga fire

By Hunter Calder

It's been three months since Coromandel resident Helen Lee lost her Kaimarama home of 17 years to fire.

She says when she returned - the hardest thing was seeing the remains of the frame of the piano "sticking up" which was the centrepiece of her home.

A proud musician, Ms Lee says the piano belonged to her mother. She has many fond memories playing music at her home on the point overlooking the Whitianga Harbour.

"It was sort of like my meditative place, the whole reason for being here, was that (piano) for me, that was my engine room."

The piano, the garden and the house are now gone - leaving only a cabin which was spared from the flames.

But Ms Lee is replanting and considering the daunting rebuild. And she's been given another piano.

"There's thousands of other pianos I can go and play, so it's not about that, it's just accepting that stage of my life has gone and now we are onto the next bit."

And while a lot of bush and trees were destroyed by the fire - which spread across 70 hectares - Ms Lee and others are committed to replanting the land and redoing her garden for the third time.

Ms Lee says she has had extensive support from friends, family and the wider community - pitching in to help keep the weeds and bay - or donating trees.

"I try to pull out 500 (wattles) a day, and they just come up everywhere because there would have been one that seeded there and the fires released the seeds."

Even students from the local polytech will be helping in the coming weeks.

Wintec's Horticultural tutor Howard Saunders says his students will be pitching in to replant the area and the exercise will be a practical lesson.

"They're going to be learning the science of tree planting, they're going to be learning names of the plants, they're going to be learning how they can impact the ecology and how a small number of plants will make a difference to the (water) runoff," Mr Saunders says.

More than 17 and a half thousand dollars was donated to the mayoral fund - set up to help people after the fire, there's still $5,500 dollars of that available. Applications for that money close on April 21.

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- NZ Herald

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