A youth alleged to have started the fire that destroyed the historic Mangatainoka Domain grandstand six months ago appears to have disappeared in a cloud of smoke - he is wanted by police for failing to appear in court.
Police and courts have confirmed a warrant is now out for the arrest of the youth, reported at the time of the fire to be aged 18.
A fire on the Sunday afternoon of August 23 last year quickly destroyed the grandstand on the Mangatainoka Domain, between Woodville and Pahiatua.
A youth arrested in the area on the day appeared soon afterwards in Palmerston North Court, from where the case was transferred to Masterton and the Youth Court, thus preventing publication of his name and anything else that could reveal his identity.
The situation confuses farmer Kerry Fergus who leases the land from the Domain Board, of which he has been a member for 45 years.
He was unaware of the current situation with the court case until contacted by Hawke's Bay Today, and said he'd found police reluctant to update him on what was happening.
"A lot of people were very angry when it happened," he said. "I thought he'd got away with nothing… the offender has all the rights."
He said he hadn't seen the youth since the day of the fire, and wouldn't mind seeing him being put to work in the domain the area to pay his dues to the community.
The fire had cost the community of some of the opportunity to use the paddock where the rugby had been played, and which had also been used two or three times for drive-in movies.
The aftermath is in the hands of Tararua District Council insurers.
Once the home of Wairarapa-Bush club Mangatainoka, which went into recess in the 1980s, the grandstand had a new lease on life when refurbished as a grassroots icon amid sponsorship of Super Rugby by Tui – the brand of the historic nearby brewery which has now been owned by Dominion Breweries for more than 50 years.
Wellington-based Super Rugby franchise the Hurricanes, which has its first match of the new season on Saturday night against the Blues in Wellington, played five pre-season matches at the Mangatainoka Domain, each year from 2010 to 2013 and against the Blues in 2019, packing crowds of up to 10,000 into what had become a pop-up venue for top-level rugby.