A resident of an east Auckland suburb said a building under construction that went up in flames this morning was set to become Kāinga Ora public housing and was strongly opposed by the community.
Five firetrucks rushed to the scene of the large blaze on Guys Rd in Huntington Park this morning about 5.35am.
Around the same time, Courtney, who lives in the area, told the Herald she woke up to find plumes of black smoke outside her window.
“I yelled at my partner and I said, ‘what the hell is going on?’ Then we walked out over to the spot and there was no police or anyone there yet, we were basically one of the first people there,” she said.
“It was quite bad.”
She said firetrucks arrived on the scene five minutes later and were still there working to contain the fire when she left for work around 7.30am.
Courtney said there are three apartment complexes being built on the site and construction started around a year ago.
In February, Courtney said she and other residents received a letter from Kāinga Ora inviting them to a meeting which revealed the apartments would be used for public housing.
“I don’t think many people in the community are very happy about it,” said Courtney.
She said she overheard people down near this morning’s fire making jokes like “I’ll grab the marshmallows”.
“No one was necessarily very concerned about it, [they were] more so just happy that it had happened,” she said.
Courtney has not attended the meetings with Kāinga Ora herself, but has heard from her neighbour that they tend to get quite heated.
“Apparently there’s been a lot of nasty words being used and lots of arguing happening.”
She said she has even noticed community members hassling the construction workers and that a group, calling for residents to chip in at least $200 per household for a lawyer, has been set up.
Kāinga Ora’s regional director for Central and East Auckland John Tubberty said the 48-home development at Guys Rd is being built in stages by developer Gemscott and is due for completion in mid-2024.
“The block where the fire occurred was reasonably well-advanced,” Tubberty said.
“Once Fenz has completed its investigations, we will work with Gemscott to understand what impact the fire will have on timeframes for the final completion of this development.”
A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said two fire trucks and two fire investigators remained on the scene around 11.15am.
They said no one was believed to be inside the house.
A police spokesperson earlier said that there were no reports of injuries and that they were working to determine the circumstances of the fire.
Caitlan Johnston is a breaking news reporter based in Waikato. She joined the Herald in 2022.