Moutere community undaunted by blaze

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 23/01/2013
Phillip Leith
HELEN MURDOCH/ Fairfax NZ

Moutere Hills Community Centre chairman Phillip Leith and Tasman District Councillor Trevor Norriss examine the fire damage to the centre.

Moutere hills fire
David Higgins Zoom
Smoke billows from the fire at the Moutere Hills Community Centre.

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Down, but not out. Parts of the interior of the Moutere Hills Community Centre may be a charred mess, but supporters are already making repair plans, and hope to hold the annual Sarau Festival on the grounds early next month.

The fire, which is thought to have started in the function room’s ceiling, ripped through most of the interior of the eight-year-old building in Upper Moutere yesterday morning.

It was discovered by a staff member opening the building for school holiday programme activities.

The centre’s chairman, Philip Leith, said the woman heard noises in the ceiling, told her children to leave, and got out as the ceiling panels fell in behind her.

The 10 crews of voluntary, rural  and professional firefighters who responded to the alarm did an amazing job in saving most of the building, he said.

The fire in the Tasman District Council-owned and community-managed building was devastating, but the community would rebound, he said.

‘‘It’s a manageable disaster.’’

While the commercial kitchen and the function room were gutted and the roof damaged, the gymnasium, community meeting room, sports changing room, toilet block and office were largely unscathed.

The Rangers Rugby Club’s sports gear was untouched by the fire, and the private historical records stored at the centre were safe, Leith said.

He hoped that the undamaged part of the building could be used in the near future once it was deemed safe and cleaned.

The centre’s management committee grouped around an outside table yesterday, trying to find alternative venues for th myriad of booked activities.

Leith said a wedding planned for this weekend and the International Aromatics Symposium in early February would shift to other venues.

‘‘But the Sarau Festival on February 3 will go ahead, to show this community can cope and bounce back.’’

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- The Nelson Mail

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