A woman has been charged with arson after a rental home in Kaitaia was gutted by fire.

Kaitaia fire crews could do nothing to save the inside of the house from being destroyed on Saturday afternoon. However, they were relieved that initial fears the tenant or her children might have been inside were unfounded.

A neighbour said the tenant left the home on Masters St, Kaitaia, late that morning. Her two children were not currently living there.

A 29-year-old was subsequently arrested and charged with arson. She appeared before a Justice of the Peace in the Kaitaia District Court on Monday.


The woman was remanded in custody without plea to May 30 to be assessed for fitness to plead. She was granted interim name suppression.

A senior firefighter said it appeared the fire had begun in several rooms, although fire investigator Craig Bain, who examined the house on Sunday, believed it had started in a back bedroom.

He was unable to determine a specific cause but strongly suspected it was suspicious, adding that while all but one room had been gutted, the flames did not appear to have done significant structural damage.

The alarm was raised at 4.16pm. A fire brigade spokesman said when the first fire crews arrived flames were erupting horizontally from the front door and every window.

Meanwhile, another fire on Saturday put a cowshed at Wainui Junction, near Ahipara, out of action.

The fire, which started just before 1am, also caused a large plastic tank of molasses-type supplement to burn and spill its contents, adding to the difficulties faced by fire crews from Ahipara and Kaitaia.

A blaze at Wainui Junction, near Ahipara, put Lyn Webster's cowshed out of action. Photo / Peter Jackson
A blaze at Wainui Junction, near Ahipara, put Lyn Webster's cowshed out of action. Photo / Peter Jackson

Farmer Lyn Webster, widely known as the author of the cost-cutting book Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce, was busy later in the morning buying powdered milk to feed her calves, and looking for a generator to rig up a temporary milking plant.

She had been unable to milk 100 of her cows that morning and was desperate to milk them before the end of the day.


Missing the morning milking was bad for the animals, she said, adding that the fire presented difficulties that were "a bit over and above" the normal challenges of dairy farming.

Webster took up the lease on the farm, owned by Danny Simms, in 2012. She was just 20 days away from moving to a new property at Hikurangi.

Kaitaia's deputy fire chief, Ross Beddows, said the shed was well ablaze when fire crews arrived. The fire was believed to have been the result of an electrical fault.