Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Blaze mars mum's Tall Blacks joy

Fire at childcare centre blow to co-owner whose son, 17, left yesterday on basketball team's trip to China.

A mother's joy at seeing her son picked to play for the Tall Blacks has been marred by the shock of losing her new $2.2 million childcare centre in Albany in a suspicious fire.

On Thursday, Maria Anstis learned her 17-year-old son Jack Salt, a Westlake Boys' High School student, had gained selection for the Tall Blacks' tour to China.

But early yesterday, a caller told her of the blaze at her Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre, which opened only in January in Apollo Drive.

"I'm totally devastated that something like this would happen to a business on the North Shore," she emailed the Herald before driving her son to the airport to join the team.

"Support from the local childcare centres and Early Childhood Council has been very helpful.

"We are a close-knit community and very supportive of each other and with it being school holidays, a lot of children are having a week's holiday at home.

"We will be relocating until the new build is complete."

Ms Anstis' business partner in the Albany centre, Tracey Macintyre, said they had planned and built the ideal centre for early education.

It is licensed for 80 children and has 18 teachers.

"Maria has many loyal parents in the area where she had centres for 12 years, including Robin's Nest.

"We will rise again. We have placements for all our children and all teachers will be with them."

The building was extensively damaged in the fire, which started about 3.15am, said North Shore police.

They are seeking information from anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in Apollo Drive or Rosedale Rd.

Fire Service shift manager Scott Osmond said the fire was brought under control in less than an hour.

- NZ Herald

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