'This is so horrific' Wellington marae burnt to the ground overnight

By Jessica Tyson
Photo source: Fire and Emergency.

Tapu Te Ranga Marae located in Island Bay Wellington has burned to the ground overnight. 

The fire service was called to the blaze at 12.30am on Sunday. Nineteen fire trucks and 70 firefighters worked to contain the fire.

Fire and emergency says a multi-story building, of 30 by 50m in size in the marae complex was "completely destroyed" and a number of other marae buildings were damaged.

Photo source: Potaua Biasny Tule

However, the wharenui, main meeting house, was saved.

Fire and emergency says there were 36 people staying at the marae overnight who self-evacuated and have all been accounted for.

"A number of neighbouring houses to the north of the marae complex were evacuated. Some people have been allowed to return to their properties this morning." 

Others are being accommodated at a welfare centre set up by Wellington City Council in Island Bay.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but officers will remain onsite today to investigate.

Locals in shock

Locals in the area were horrified to see the building go up in flames.

Twitter user Tania Sawicki Mead, “Just saw huge plumes of smoke and at least 10 fire engines. This is so horrific, such an important place.”

Meanwhile, other locals have taken to social media to pay tribute to the marae and how it had served the community.

Kieran Haslett-Moore wrote on Twitter, “I woke this morning to the terrible news that Tapu Te Ranga Marae is no more. Having been at the Kohanga Reo there in the early 80's it made a part of who I am.”

Tanya Freyz wrote, "What heartbreaking loss. Tapu Te Ranga in Island Bay was extraordinary space & hub of manaakitanga. Life-saving, life-altering. That the multitude of different spaces, woven with aroha over decades, into that incredible main structure are just... gone."

Three fire trucks will remain at the site today and firefighters will continue to dampen hot spots.

People are being asked to avoid the area.

Tapu Te Ranga Marae before the fire. Source: Tema Hemi

History of the marae

The marae was built in 1974, founded by Bruce Stewart of Waitaha ki Te Arawa and Ngāti Kirihika ki Raukawa descent. 

He named the Marae after Island Bay's Tapu Te Ranga Island, which means the sacred rising. 

Over the years it has helped many in the community including Māori youth.

Twitter user Dominic Godfrey said it was so sad to see the legacy of  Stewart lost in the blaze today.

"So much of his wairua was imbued into those buildings which had given shelter to so many, including me."

Tapu Te Ranga Marae before the fire. Source: Tema Hemi

More to come.