Auckland man charged with arson over Piha fires

A 19-year-old West Auckland man has been arrested in relation to two fires among the spate of fires at Piha over the past nine days.

Waitakere police area commander Scott Webb said the man is a Piha resident. He was arrested this morning in Tauranga.

The man faces three arson charges and one burglary charge which relates to a fire at a local fish and chip store and a large scrub fire adjacent to the store. The third arson charge relates to a fire that occurred in the Auckland city area within the same period.

"Piha is a tight-knit community and we understand this has been a stressful time for residents. Police would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding," Webb said.

Adrian Doggett, owner of  Adey's Place fish and chip shop in Piha that was destroyed by a suspicious fire at the weekend. Photo / Michael Craig
Adrian Doggett, owner of Adey's Place fish and chip shop in Piha that was destroyed by a suspicious fire at the weekend. Photo / Michael Craig

"We have received an overwhelming response from local residents and the wider public who have come forward with information.

"Further investigations are continuing in relation to multiple other fires in the area. At this stage police are not looking for anyone else and we cannot rule out the possibility of other charges being laid," he said.

The man will appear in the Tauranga District Court tomorrow.

Peter Chapman, who owns the Piha general store, said it was a relief to know the police had made an arrest in the case, which had brought the community closer together.

"The general feeling is the police have done a wonderful job along with fire investigators and we are also grateful for the fire volunteers in our community that the fires weren't worse," Chapman said.

The first of a series of suspicious fires around the high-profile beach community was lit a week ago.

Just over 24 hours later, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, another spate of fires was reported on the Marawhara Walk Track at North Piha.

Soon after, fire crews became aware of two more fires on Lion Rock and a third on the embankment at the intersection of Marine Parade South and Beach Valley Rd.

Later that day police described the fires as suspicious and appealed for help from the public.

Waitakere police area commander Scott Webb said the man arrested is a Piha resident. Photo / File
Waitakere police area commander Scott Webb said the man arrested is a Piha resident. Photo / File

Flames destroyed a Piha takeaway shop in the early hours of Sunday morning. Firefighters also had to battle two more fires in hills above the township.

Police say there have been at least 15 suspicious fires around Piha in the past fortnight.

Authorities are not ruling out laying more charges against the Auckland man.

- NZ Herald

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