Runanga pledges to rebuild

DAMPING DOWN: A firefighter at work on the fire  at the Hokonui Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu building Gore.
DAMPING DOWN: A firefighter at work on the fire at the Hokonui Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu building Gore.

Shocked members of a Ngai Tahu runanga in Gore who watched as part of their building was ravaged by fire yesterday were vowing to rebuild, even before the blaze had been extinguished.

More than 40 firefighters from Gore, Mataura and Riversdale fought the fire at the Hokonui Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu building in Charlton Rd.

It was the third large fire in Gore in recent weeks.

In April the Livestock Supplies Ltd premises was destroyed in a fire and this month a suspicious fire totalled a building at East Gore School.

Hokonui Runanga chairman Rewi Anglem, watching from the lawn as firefighters tackled the blaze late yesterday afternoon, said he was devastated.

The fire started in the workshop, which was destroyed, and the ablution block was badly damaged.

The $1 million building was built 15 years ago with a lot of hard work, Anglem said. "We are devastated ... but we will put a lot of work into getting it built again."

Runanga maintenance manager Colin Nicholson said he walked through the door of the workshop about 3.30pm and "boom, just a flash".

When asked what he did, he said: "What do you think I bloody did, out the door and hit the fire alarm."

Anglem was in the kitchen with several others when he heard smoke alarms go off.

"We came outside and saw the fire, it was coming through the roof."

He believed the cause of the fire may be electrical.

"We are all in shock, it happened so fast," he said.

The building was the business headquarters for the Hokonui Runanga and was a service provider in the district.

Runanga student advocate Bob Gammelin was thankful no one was hurt. The premises was the "heart and soul of the Hokonui" and provided health services, social services, support for elderly and youth, and more, he said.

Gore deputy fire chief Don McGuigan said about 20 firefighters wearing breathing apparatus had entered the ablution block and fought the blaze to prevent it from spreading through the building.

A classroom and most of the main office block had been saved, he said.

Gas cylinders were in the workshop but had not exploded and were not the cause, he said.

The fire was not being treated as suspicious.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said he felt for all the individuals and three organisations affected by fire in the town in recent months.

"It's not an easy time at all. The most important thing is to make sure everyone is well and safe and then take stock of what needs to be done to put things right and rebuild."

The Southland Times