Student blamed for starting fire

18:40, Nov 23 2012

The 17-year-old student charged with arson over the fire at the Whangamata Area School will be welcomed back to finish his education next year.

Principal Ross Preece said he was convinced the fire was not malicious and described it as a stupid act.

"Anyone who has boys knows they sometimes do stupid things without considering the consequences and this was one of those times," he said.

The fire, last Wednesday, destroyed the woodwork, metal work and automotive classrooms causing several thousand dollars worth of damage.

A joint police and NZ Fire Service investigation found the cause of the fire was reckless use of matches and the student was charged with arson.

He appeared in the Thames District Court on Monday and was bailed to appear in Waihi District Court next month.


There were no injuries caused by the fire, but it has left a repair bill which could top $1 million.

Mr Preece said the students at the school had bounced back and were not suffering any trauma.

"The community has really rallied around the school and been very supportive of our teacher in charge of technology, Bob Pipe," he said.

He said Mr Pipe has worked in the technology department for over 20 years and was a respected member of the community.

"Our technology department has got a lot of great stuff most schools don't have because of the support Mr Pipe gets from the community," he said.

He said the Thames Coromandel District Council had been great and had already agreed to a permit to demolish.

"The classroom is on a concrete pad so it should just be a matter of clearing the rubble, which may be under way as early as next week, and rebuilding," he said.

Waikato Times