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Sandringham fire sparks call for help

Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
Liz Walker
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ
FIRE TRUST: St Lukes Environmental Protection Society member Liz Walker wants the wider community to take ‘‘ownership’’ of the area’s natural environment, rather than destroy it.

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A community environmental group wants to engage with the wider neighbourhood to avoid a repetition of a "disappointing" act of vandalism.

Up to 50 native grass shrubs at Kerr Taylor Reserve in Sandringham were deliberately set alight on Saturday evening in an incident that could have easily got out of control had it not been for the swift action of a nearby resident.

Firefighters were called to the reserve about 6pm to douse the blazing bushes which line a drain feeding Meola Creek.

Three boys, one riding a bicycle, were seen in the park minutes before the fire was discovered.

Combined with the effects of another Guy Fawkes-related flare-up the area has been much-abused in recent weeks - and it looks it.

The St Lukes Environmental Protection Society, which takes a particular interest in Meola Creek and its surrounds, is keen to make sure the damage doesn't continue and the place is properly respected by all in the future.

Over the years the society has planted hundreds of trees and plants in the neighbouring Roy Clements Treeway and advocated for the construction of a boardwalk which has transformed the area into a popular thoroughfare and link.

Spokeswoman Liz Walker says to have an important community asset wilfully damaged is a shame.

But she hopes to convince the Eden-Albert Local Board to invest in initiatives aimed at fostering a greater sense of community ownership.

"What we'd love to do is get buy-in and engagement with young kids," she says.

"We'd really love to have people from the wider area engaged and productive and helping us with planting - owning it if you like."

The land is owned by Mt Albert Grammer which Ms Walker says is "very generous" in sharing it with the community.

"But idiots like this jeopardise that and cause fear. It's a very important connector."

It was lucky the fire was not considerably worse.

"It could have expanded up to the apartments.

"The fireman said if it got hold of the poplars they would have had a problem.

"I don't think these kids were thinking. They're not aware of the repercussions being physically threatening and to the wider community if these things keep happening. We want the kids helping, not creating fear and division within this community."

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- Central Leader

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