Teenage girl admits starting playground fire

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The pirate ship after it was damaged in the arson attack. Pictured with it before it was removed was Lions Club member Ray Hilliker, a co-ordinator of the park.
The pirate ship after it was damaged in the arson attack. Pictured with it before it was removed was Lions Club member Ray Hilliker, a co-ordinator of the park.

A playground pirate ship fire sparked by a teenage girl's heartbroken anguish has cost the Hastings District Council almost $60,000, a judge was told in Hastings District Court today.

The details came in a police summary presented to the court as 17-year-old Hereateu Tumanako, of Hastings, pleaded guilty to a charge of arson relating to the fire at a new playground at Windsor Park, Mayfair, on the morning of January 8 this year.

The ship had been built in a Lions Club playground project after a much bigger and historic pirate ship attraction had been destroyed by arson in the neighbouring Splash Planet water-them park (formerly Fantasyland) in April 2015.

Judge Max Courtney was told how Tumanako, who had no previous convictions, spent several hours planning the fire and enlisted a younger teenage girl to help.

Aware a youth had already made an unsuccessful attempt to burn the children's climbing attraction, Tumanako wanted to show "how it is done," the summary said.

The summary said it all started early in the evening before the fire when Tumanako became upset that her boyfriend was with another girl.

She and the co-offender tried to find petrol to help start the fire, but used paper, engine oil and a cigarette lighter, going into town and waiting during the night until no one was around before trying to start the fire. The oil she put on the deck would not burn properly, and at one stage the co-offender removed a jersey and the pair tried to start the fire using the garment.

Sticks, leaves and more paper were gathered eventually causing a fire to which the Fire Service was called about 7am.

The summary said costs "directly related" to the fire totalled $21,679.65, of which half would be sought from Tumanako if reparation were considered. But the erection of security fencing, cameras and other steps to avert repeats of the vandalism had taken the cost to $59,778.05.

Police said Tumanako later admitted the fire was her idea, and that that the younger offender just did what she was told to do.

Tumanako was remanded on bail for sentencing on July 14.

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