A Northland marae was badly damaged by fire last night.

The whare kai, or cooking house, at Waikare Marae went up in flames around 6pm.

Senior Fire Officer Scott Osmond said firefighters had little chance of saving the building.

"The nearest fire brigade is in Dargaville and this is about 40 minutes north of Dargaville - it took us that long to get there. By the time we got there the whare kai was pretty much on the ground, destroyed by fire."

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He said the fire was not suspicious.

"A fire investigator did attend last night - whether he came to any conclusions or not, I don't know."