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Grandstand blaze, teen arrested

The historic grandstand at Mangatainoka has been badly damaged in a fire. PHOTO/NZME

Stand now unusable

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An 18-year-old has been arrested in relation to a fire which destroyed the Mangatainoka Domain grandstand opposite Tui Brewery headquarters on Sunday.

He has been charged with arson and was to appear in Palmerston North District Court yesterday.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand said they were alerted to the fire on Sunday at about 2.30pm.

The blaze took about two hours to put out, a spokeswoman said.

“Three appliances [trucks] attended, two from Pahiatua, one from Woodville, and a tanker from Dannevirke,” she said.

After crews left, one fire investigator stayed and waited for the police to arrive and assess the damage.

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive Tony Hargood said the Mangatainoka Rugby Club, along with Konini and Puketoi, had all been very much part of the lives of the Bush fraternity.

He said the century-old stand had been an icon to the region.

The grandstand, emblazoned with the name of the long-gone Mangatainoka Rugby Football Club had taken on an iconic and nostalgic aura in recent years with the field transformed from farm paddock to rugby field for several Hurricanes Super Rugby pre-season games, the last against the Blues in February 2019, which attracted more than 5000 spectators.

The century and the refurbishment of the grandstand was marked with a Golden Oldies match kicked-off by now-late All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads in 2008.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis was at an ambulance station next-door to the Pahiatua Fire Station when the alarm was raised.

The blaze destroyed the structure. PHOTO/FACEBOOK

She said “the [grandstand] roof has collapsed and from the load, it looks like the whole inside has gone”.

“You’re talking about a grandstand that was both loved and well cared for,” Collis said.

“It’s part of the landscape.”

Hargood affirmed the stand meant a lot to the community.

“It’s just such an iconic grandstand – it’s hosted many of the Hurricanes pre-season games and anyone over their 40s would no doubt have played at Mangatainoka at some stage in their rugby life – it’s a tragedy”, he said.

Kerry Fergus, who leases the land, said a big fireball came out of the building.

“The whole thing, right across the front, was on fire. It looked like it had been lit here in the front.”

He said the facility was no longer usable.

— Additional reporting by NZME

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