Russian billionaire’s team helps rebuild wharenui destroyed in fire

NZ Herald
15 January 2015
Anne Gibson

Reports say the blaze was started by children playing with a lighter.

A Russian billionaire’s workers are helping Maori plan a new Northland meeting house after a devastating fire.

Staff working for oligarch Alexander Abramov are providing assistance for the rebuilding of Ngatiwai’s Te Uri o Hikihiki wharenui at Mokau Marae, north of Whangarei, after it was destroyed two years ago.

Clive Stone, resource consent manager of the tangata whenua, said he had been working in a team to plan the new building since the fire on November 8, 2013.

The marae is about 5km north around the coast from Mr Abramov’s $50 million-plus Helena Bay luxury lodge, now being finished ready for next summer and thought to be New Zealand’s most expensive new residential project, with a main house or lodge and three separate beachfront residences, two of which can be subdivided internally to provide accommodation for a number of guests.

“The assistance we have received from Helena Bay Holdings has made our job a lot easier, providing machinery, advice about how we clean up the site and also with our future projects,” Mr Stone said at a meeting in the former Helena Bay farmhouse, now staff accommodation and office.

“We’ve just completed the planning but it hasn’t been cheap.”

Help drafting tender documents was invaluable in preparing paperwork so suppliers could bid for the work and the board could seek the best bid, he said.

Ngatiwai Trust Board chairman Hayden Edmonds said Helena Bay’s help had been invaluable.

Helena Bay Holdings managing director Christopher Seel said no questions were asked when he realised Ngatiwai needed expertise in terms of equipment and skills from his big building site where a number of tower cranes were working for months.

“We were glad to help. The key thing was getting it all cleaned up so it wasn’t a constant reminder of the negative and allowing everyone to focus on the future and the new wharenui and wharekai which was a shell. There is now a plan for completion,” he said.

Mr Seel said work was under way to prepare to run Helena Bay as a luxury lodge and every effort was being made to include staff of Ngatiwai iwi descent.

Reports two years ago said the fire was believed to have been started by children aged 3 and 6 playing with a lighter. The blaze caused several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage, but no loss of life.

– NZ Herald

My Conclusion

There are still a lot of good people, I don’t judge by their nationally, nor how much money they have; I judge by their action. And it’s so unfortunate that the Marae was burned by fire and believe to caused by young children playing with the lighter. My advice that tell your children that it they found a lighter or a box of matches or a matches lying on the floor they should give it to their parents; last thing your want is a fire on you place. Lucky to the Maoris The Russian Billionaire living near by was kind enough to help to rebuild the Wharenui Marae.

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