The tangi for a three-year-old has been moved for a third time after the rural Waikato marae it was being held in on Saturday was gutted by fire.

Nobody was injured in the 4.30pm blaze at Mokai Marae near Taupo where the tangi was being held for three-year-old Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri who died of injuries from critical injuries after an alleged assault.

Fire crews from Rotorua, Taupo, Mangakino, Tokoroa and Mangatahi were sent to the scene, 26km northwest of Taupo.

Tokoroa fire chief Dave Morris told the Herald this morning that after the blaze Moko's tangi was moved to Ongaroto Marae, on State Highway 1, at Atiamuri before shifting again yesterday to Papa O Te Aroha Marae on Mossop Rd, Tokoroa, to accommodate more people.

The fire was in a corner of the single-level 30m by 30m building at the marae 26 kilometres northwest of Taupo. Photo / Supplied
The fire was in a corner of the single-level 30m by 30m building at the marae 26 kilometres northwest of Taupo. Photo / Supplied

Spokesperson for Mokai Marae, Eru George, told Maori Television last night, mourners were "deep despair".

"This dining hall was named after Parehingaawatea. Parehingaawatea was the wife of our chief and our meeting house Pakake Taiari."

Mr George said the fire broke out while the funeral was taking place.

"We had only just called the house to come in for lunch yesterday. We were shocked because the fire had just started," he said.

About 50 firefighters were sent to blaze, which was in a corner of the single-level 30m by 30m building.

Northern Fire Communications shift manager Steve Smith said on Saturday that the fire was "well involved", but no one was seriously hurt or trapped.

"There's no water supply there so we've had to send all the trucks with water," Smith said at the time.

A marae elder was taken by ambulance to hospital after suffering smoke inhalation.


The fire in the wharekai was "totally involved" and was still not under control almost two hours after the alarm was raised.

Nearby buildings, including the wharenui (meeting house) were initially also at risk.

"The priority is protecting those buildings," Smith said.

Fire Service National Maori Advisor Piki Thomas said the lack of smoke alarms, limited water supply and the remote location of the marae meant there was little chance to save the marae.

"Sadly, witnesses could do little but watch in anguish as their community's most important building went up in smoke."

He said other marae around the country would likely also be vulnerable to fire and he hoped Saturday's fire would spur those responsible for the management of marae to re-evaluate their fire safety measures.

"The Fire Service strongly recommends installing sprinklers to control the spread of fire and to protect taonga. We also recommend hard-wired smoke alarms to provide early warning and preparing an evacuation plan - and practising it regularly so occupants can get out quickly.

"It's also important to check wiring in older buildings, to keep an eye on tamariki, to cook safely and to test fire extinguishers and hose reels."

Mr Thomas went to Mokai on Saturday and had seen the distress the marae's destruction had caused Ngati Te Kohera and Ngati Tuwharetoa people.

He urged marae leaders to contact their local Maori Liaison Officer on 0800 MAHUIKA (624 8452) as a first step to assessing their safety precautions.

Two people, a 43-year-old man and an 26-year-old woman appeared in the Rotorua District Court on Wednesday in relation to the death of Moko Rangitoheriri.

They entered no plea and were due to reappear in the Taupo District Court next month.