Over three decades after a small Northland community got together to build their own hall, Tangiteroria residents are determined to rebuild what they lost in a devastating fire yesterday.
Tangiteroria is "in mourning" after their Sports Complex – a frequently used community hall – burned to the ground in the early hours of Thursday.
However, Jan Beatty, president of the Sports Complex committee, said they would rebuild their "Complex" without a doubt.
"I had a phone call at three in the morning, and they told me to look out of my window," Beatty said.
Her house is a two-minute drive from the Complex on Pukehuia Rd, about 32km south-west of Whangārei, and she could see the blaze from afar.
"We roared down there, but by the time we arrived, it was too late. There was nothing anyone could have done. It was horrendous to watch the walls falling ... it reduced us all to tears."
Fire and Emergency NZ received the call at 3.03am on Thursday from a member of the public.
Lead investigator Jason Goffin said when firefighters arrived the fire had spread across the entire building, and it took the crew a couple of hours to get the flames under control.
Emergency services had dispatched three fire trucks from Dargaville, one from Whangārei, and two fire tankers - one each from the Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Whananaki - that used the nearby school pool for accessing water.
Goffin said because most of the structure was built from timber and the current dry conditions, the hall burned down quickly.
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All of the hall's wooden structure is gone, and most of the steel frame has been distorted beyond repair.
At 11am, there were still small plumes of smoke coming from scattered hotspots, and there was a distinct smell of fire and smoke.
A police spokesman at the scene said the investigations wouldn't start until they deemed the structure safe to enter.
A new police drone was used to take photographs of the scene, and police spoke to nearby residents who had noticed the fire in the night. Police don't know yet what has caused the fire.
The Sports Complex was built in a huge community effort 33 years ago when families from around Tangiteroria got together dedicating their own labour and material towards constructing the hall.
Tangiteroria resident Steve Drinnan, who was also saw the devastating fire, said while the Complex was a sporting hub, it was also used for various community functions, including weddings, birthdays and funerals.
"It also had one of the best commercial kitchens in Northland," Drinnan said.
Two squash, a basketball and a tennis court, as well as sporting and kitchen equipment were destroyed in the fire.
Community member Kirsty Jessop also pointed out that they lost irreplaceable memorabilia, such as original maps from the region, old photographs and trophies.
"The community is in mourning; the hall was the heart of this place. But the spirit of the community is very strong. We are resilient people out here, and at some stage, we will all band together again."
After the local tavern had shut down in 2016 and Tangiteroria's residents had lost a place to share dinners and drinks together, the Complex committee started organising burger and chips evening every fortnight.
At their last big dinner party at the end of the year, 81 people came together, committee president Beatty said. The committee was just in the process of putting a library in with new flooring and lighting.
"But this won't beat us. We are two steps ahead this time compared to when they started building the Complex, because we are fully insured. We will definitely rebuild."
Police are asking for information from witnesses as part of their investigation. To report to the police, contact Detective Kiley Dalbeth 021 191 2075, or 105 for the non-emergency line. To make an anonymous report, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.