Pearl Sanger is a feisty woman with a good sense of humour and for her there is no place like home.

The 93-year-old Whangarei woman is refusing to go into a rest home, saying she is enjoying her home too much to leave. A year ago today it was an emotional homecoming for Pearl as she rolled through the front door of the refurbished house in a wheelchair.

She was in tears as she described her house, where she has lived for more than 30 years, as "Buckingham Palace" and thanked those responsible for the impressive home makeover.

Watch as Pearl returns home:

92-year-old Pearl Sanger described her refurbished house as "Buckingham Palace" and was in tears as she thanked those responsible for the impressive home make-over.

Nearly two months earlier thieves broke in through a window, stole her television and cash from a money box then torched the single-story house in Tikipunga. It was the same day Pearl was due home after a week in Whangarei Hospital recovering from a chest infection.

The community response was awesome. Local tradesmen and businesses came together to turn the charred and smoke- damaged structure into a beautiful home. She even had international crime writer Lee Child - her favourite author - send her a signed copy of his latest Jack Reacher book. Twelve months down the track and she has no plans to move out.

"There's no place like home to be, is there?" Pearl says with a laugh. "Everything was so lovely to come home to, all painted up. Oh and the kitchen to me still looks so lovely. It's so lovely my home."

Seated in a chair, which was donated by a local business, she was surrounded by her books and a packet of her favourite sweets, Werther's Original, within arms reach.

"I don't really go anywhere and I don't really want to. I have a lot of people coming in to help me. Oh lord I have been reading plenty of books. I've just started a new one that was given to me and it's very good. I love good books."

She was surprised to learn 12 months had passed since she had moved home.

"Time goes on doesn't it. Well I never, is it a year?"

Pearl says she sleeps in her chair as her mobility gets worse but she's never cold thanks to a heat pump that was donated and installed. She is quick to acknowledge the help from her nephew Ray Broad.


"He's been helping me and has been so good to me."

Mr Broad said he had spoken to his aunt about a rest home but she refused to shift.

During the interview by the Northern Advocate this week photographer John Stone showed Pearl a photo he had taken of her on his camera.

When she looked at the image on the back of the camera Pearl exclaimed: "Don't I look lovely." She laughed and started rearranging her hair.

After the arson, two 15-year-old males were arrested by police and dealt with through the Youth Court.