A fire investigator is frustrated that a fire alarm went off in a historic Whangarei building for nine hours before anybody called 111 to report it.

Whangarei Fire Service investigator Craig Bain said time is of the essence in a fire, so to have the fire alarm at the Harding Army Hall, in Walton St, go for so long yesterday before a call was made to the FIre Service is frustrating.

Mr Bain said inquiries indicated that the alarm - which includes a loud alarm and a recorded voice saying ''the fire alarm has been activated, please evacuate the building'' - had been going since 3am.

''But the first call we received was around midday - that's nine hours of the fire alarm going off without anybody calling it in. And it wasn't a 111 call, it was to our station office.


''There would have been hundreds of people working nearby or walking past that would have heard the alarm, but nobody called 111 to let us know.''

Mr Bain said although people may have assumed it was a false alarm, or that somebody else may have called it in, he urged anybody who heard a fire alarm to call 111 immediately to report it to the FIre Service.

Not all fire alarms were monitored by the Fire Service or others, so it was vital the public called them in.

He said the earlier firefighters got to a scene the more chance they had of putting a fire out and saving a building.

''It's no problem if we get there and it's a false alarm, it's better we get there to find that out rather than get there too late. About 30 per cent of calls to the Fire Service end up being false alarms, but if in doubt call 111 to report it.''

Mr Bain said the Army Hall is a historic building listed as a protected building with Heritage NZ and if there had been a fire all the history associated with it would go up in smoke.

He said the alarm was triggered by one of the building's smoke detectors faulting.

The Army Hall is owned by the Government, which bought it in recent years and it is in the landbank operated by the Office of Treaty Settlements to be used in future Treaty of Waitangi settlements.