Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘Mystery man’ seen fleeing scene of Kainga Ora building fire

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Completion of the Kainga Ora development in Huntington Park was delayed by a month when it was damaged by arson in July last year. Times photo Wayne Martin

Police have been unable to establish the identity of a mystery man seen running from the scene of a large building fire in east Auckland.

As the Times has previously reported, the controversial multi-storey Kainga Ora public housing development in Guys Road, Huntington Park, was damaged in a blaze that broke out in the early hours of July 24 last year.

Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) was alerted to the incident at about 5.30am.

Multiple fire trucks were still present later that morning and a fire hose atop a crane was being used to dampen the interior of the building, the steel frame of which was exposed.

A member of the public at the scene said he didn’t see the blaze when he drove past the building at about 5am, but when he returned shortly after 6am it was alight. The man said he saw a police car nearby.

Following the incident police said an investigation was under way.

“We can confirm the fire is being treated as suspicious and extensive damage has occurred at the site.

“An initial scene examination has been conducted and further enquiries remain ongoing.”

The Times recently asked police for an update on the investigation.

A spokesperson says police have exhausted enquiries into the matter.

“At the time, police worked with FENZ investigators to establish the cause of the fire, which was deliberately lit with an accelerant.

“Following a scene examination, no further forensic opportunities were identified.

“Police located CCTV footage from the wider area, which identified a man in a hoodie running away from the scene after the fire began, in the direction of Kirikiri Lane.

“At this time, this man has not been identified. No witnesses have been identified by police.

“As such, police have filed the matter as of December last year pending any further information.”

Firefighters at the scene of the Kainga Ora building fire in July last year. Times file photo Wayne Martin

The 48-home development is being built in stages and was due for completion in mid-2024.

The fire has delayed that by about one month.

The building will feature new one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes, as well as 62 off-street parking spaces and a community room for residents. It’s on two sites and will mainly house smaller families.

The project was the subject of a loud backlash from the local community since it was first announced.

The Huntington Park Residents and Ratepayers Association expressed concerns about the development and said it was considering taking legal action to try to stop it.

It was disappointed with what it says was a lack of consultation with residents about the development and other potential issues relating to vehicle parking and housing density.

Almost 650 people signed a petition calling for a halt to the work.

Kainga Ora officials fronted a heated public meeting in Botany in April last year to discuss the development.

People who attended the meeting said irate residents shouted at the officials, who said they would leave if the audience didn’t calm down.

Kainga Ora regional director for central and east Auckland John Tubberty previously said the agency was “extremely disappointed” the fire had been deemed suspicious.

“The block where the fire occurred was reasonably well advanced. It will delay the completion of much-needed homes for families.”

Tubberty said the development will eventually provide homes for families in need of a modern, warm and dry place to call home.

“It’s really sad that this fire will be forcing families to live in less than desirable conditions in the meantime.”

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