Wellington Scoop

Fire at Island Bay marae “not … suspicious,” but fire alarms being investigated

Tapu Te Ranga Marae in flames. Photo from RNZ by Plucky Pīwakawaka

News from Fire and Emergency NZ
Fire and Emergency New Zealand investigators are continuing to examine the scene of the Tapu Te Ranga Marae fire in Island Bay.

The fire is not believed to be suspicious and investigations into the cause and origin are likely to be completed in the next 48 hours.

The effectiveness of the fire alarm system is of particular interest to investigators.

Report from RNZ – June 9
There was a large fire at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay early this morning. Firefighters saved the meeting house, but the main building collapsed in the blaze and other surrounding buildings were compromised.

A group of 27 cub scouts and several parents were staying in the marae when the fire started about 12.30am, but they escaped to a neighbouring property.

RNZ photo

Some nearby residents had to leave their homes, and they stayed at a welfare centre set up by the Wellington City Council.

Around 70 firefighters helped fight the blaze after being called to the fire about 12.30am.

Firefighters are continuing to dampen down hotspots at the marae and expect to be there most of the day.

A specialist fire investigator will look into what caused the fire.

Tapu Te Ranga was built in 1974 by homeless, unemployed, troubled youth and former prisoners who were guided by the late rangatira and founder Bruce Stewart. It opened in 1983 and was built largely from recyclable materials.

Tapu Te Ranga has seen people from all walks of life use its whare for classes, wānanga, workshops, tours, and accommodation. It’s involved in several community projects including a major reforestation scheme.

News from Fire and Emergency NZ
At around 12.30am last night Fire and Emergency NZ was called to a fire at Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay. A total of around 70 fire fighters and 19 fire appliances brought the fire under control.

A multi-story building with a footprint of 30 by 50 metres in the marae complex was completely destroyed and a number of other marae buildings damaged. The main meeting house has been saved.

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. Those who haven’t are being accommodated at a welfare centre set up by Wellington City Council in Island Bay.

This morning three appliances remain at the site and are continuing to dampen hot spots. Fire and Emergency is asking people to avoid the area.

UPDATE from Fire and Emergency
Fire and Emergency NZ fire investigators are at the site of last night’s fire at Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay, Wellington. The investigation will continue tomorrow. Until the investigation is complete, we will not speculate as to the cause of the fire. We are working closely with the Wellington City Council to look at the marae complex in its entirety.

Press Release: Tapu-te-Ranga Trust and Marae
Tēnā koutou katoa,
Tapu Te Ranga Marae was on fire in the early hours of Sunday morning and emergency services arrived at around 12:30am to quell the flames. Firstly, we are grateful that the manuhiri, our neighbours and the residents of the Marae whānau are all safe.

We would like to acknowledge the quick response of the Fire Service, Ambulance, Police, Māori Wardens and Council volunteers who successfully protected the surrounding properties of Rhine Street, Island Bay.

We mourn for the loss of our Kuia, Pare Waaka. Who was built by the late rangatira Bruce Stewart, his whānau, Māori youth and volunteers over the last 45 years. We are devastated that a number of our whare have been tragically taken by fire. However, the heart of the Marae is the whānau. And we are determined to rebuild the Marae with the aroha and support of our community.

We have a mammoth task ahead of us. We have setup a Give-a-Little page, “Rebuild Tapu Te Ranga Marae.” Any koha big or small would be very much appreciated. We are grateful for the outpouring of aroha we have received thus far.

Nā te ringa tangata i hanga te whare
Nā te tuarā o te whare i whakatipu i te tangata
We who build the house are built by the house

Ngā Mihi
Gabriel Tupou, Spokesperson, Tapu-te-Ranga Trust


  1. Chris Horne, 9. June 2019, 14:22

    What a catastrophe to lose Island Bay’s remarkable Tapu Te Ranga Marae, a building of enormous value to people of so many races, cultures and backgrounds. The wisdom, foresight and inspiration of kaumatua Bruce Stewart who designed and built this landmark building and carved parts of it, using large amounts of skilfully recycled timber. It was a fitting tribute to a great Kiwi who inspired, trained and hosted so many people.
    Let’s ensure that Bruce Stewart’s great example will continue in a replacement marae run on similar lines.

  2. Victor Davie, 9. June 2019, 16:32

    I attended a remembrance service at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae and took some photographs of the exterior and interior of the building. The wisdom and courage of Bruce Stewart creating this unique building against all odds, for the benefit of people from all walks of life, must be remembered. The City Council and Wellington community will need to combine and support a replacement building in honour of Mr Stewart.

  3. Regan Balzer, 9. June 2019, 16:33

    This is the most tragic fire I have seen for NZ, as the building not only housed amazing NZ art, it was an artwork in itself. Tapu Te Ranga Marae was a testament to NZ self determination. [via twitter]