It was an emotional couple of days for residents of Tangiterōria, a rural community west of Whangārei, who are coping with losing their 33-year old sports complex – a popular community centre – in a devastating fire last Thursday.
Former local farmer Richard Drake had been part of the inception of the Tangiterōria Sports Complex and was utterly shocked by the news that the building has burned to the ground.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard it. The Complex was the heart of the community," Drake said.
The fire had broken out early on Thursday morning, and when fire services arrived, the building was ablaze and beyond saving.
Drake, who has left Tangiterōria to live in the South Island, still has a connection with Tangiterōria and remembers how the community got together over three decades ago to build what later was known as "The Complex".
"We had an old settler's hall that was at its third location because it was moved several times. A building inspector had a look it and said it would cost us $20,000 to bring it up to standard," Drake explained.
Instead of pouring money into the run-down hall, the community looked at options to replace it and started to get in touch with councils and other stakeholders.
"There were over 100 families living in the Tangiterōria area at the time. We all got together to work on this. It wouldn't have happened without the tireless support of the entire community."
After lots of fundraising, the residents themselves started the construction of their new community hub, volunteering their time and effort towards completing the project.
"We did most of the building ourselves. It was voluntary community labour. We had a steel frame and concrete flooring, but the rest of the material was wood – locally milled pine, macrocarpa and some kauri for the panelling," Drake said.
"At the time, most of us farmers were struggling, so the Complex was a great opportunity to get together without having to spend a lot of money. It was a good outlet for everyone."
He said while the hall was titled sports complex it was catered towards a range of functions – not only for the community to get together but also as a conference and meeting place for organisations from across the country.
Amongst chefs, the Complex kitchen was known as one of the best commercial kitchens in the region.
Drake said the greatest tragedy was the loss of memorabilia including plagues commemorating soldiers from the world wars, historical trophies and photography.
Tangiterōria Sport Complex's committee chair Jan Beatty had said on Thursday that they were looking at rebuilding the centre; however, police and the fire service are currently investigating the incident.
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.