A fire that gutted two shops and caused smoke damage to others at the Selwyn Heights shopping complex yesterday morning is being treated as suspicious.
A police spokeswoman said they were called to the complex on the corner of Old Quarry Rd and Kokako St at 3.25am.
The spokeswoman said police believed the fire started in a rubbish bin.
A Fire and Emergency spokesman said they battled the blaze for just over three hours.
Fire communications spokesman Colin Underdown said five trucks attended the scene and said the fire affected two shops and was spread over an area 50m by 10m.
There was a large amount of smoke when firefighters arrived at 3.39am, he said.
A fire investigator at the scene yesterday morning said two stores were damaged by fire and several others damaged by smoke.
Sitting across from their family business, a woman watched the charred remnants through teary eyes in silence.
Bula Takeaways, a Fijian speciality takeaway shop, had been in the complex since June last year, and was one of the businesses ablaze.
Co-owner of the family-run business Ashmi Reddy said their daughter got a call that morning from a friend who said their shop was in trouble and they went straight over.
She said the rubbish bin, where it was believed the fire started, sat beneath a window.
"We just have to wait for everything to clear ... but we will carry on."
The other shop that caught fire was a barber called Specific Cuts.
Shop owners in the complex and neighbours had also had to deal with vandalism and groups of young people hanging around.
The owner of Sew n Sew, Marie, said there was a "bad group of young people" that loitered around the shops.
"You just really don't feel safe with the door open if you're in here by yourself."
She said a brick was thrown through her window about a month ago which prompted her and other shop owners to talk about getting security cameras.
She said it was sadly too late in this instance but she said she would install cameras and lights soon.
"I really, really feel for them, that business was so needed in the community. It's just boosted all the shops and they're just such lovely people.
"It's left a horrible feeling."
A resident across the road who did not want to be named said none of those businesses deserved that.
She smelled smoke about 3.30 and heard the alarms but did not see anything and said the family did not deserve it.
"We go there all the time, that's our favourite takeaway. They're so friendly and such hard workers. The whole whānau work in there.
"We have the occassional bins set alight and hoons late at night, but nothing like that. That's devastating."
Another said she was disappointed but was not surprised as she had called the police a few weeks earlier for a group of young people trying to light posters in the complex.
She said police always responded well to calls her and her neighbours made.
"It's unwarranted. Half the time I put it down to boredom," she had said.
Investigations are ongoing.