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Fire a setback for Kennedy Park stairs

Flagstaff Team

‘Incredibly disappointing’… A fire that damaged Kennedy Park stairs is yet another delay for WWII trust chair Chris Owen

A Guy Fawkes night fire is an “incredibly disappointing” setback to the reinstatement of the popular coastal stairs at Castor Bay’s Kennedy Park, which were closed by cyclone damage almost two years ago.

The 4 November scrub fire on the cliff-face damaged supports of the wooden walkway leading to the stairs and piles under the top flight. The more than 120-step stairs were destroyed by a slip in Cyclone Debbie in April 2017.

“The trust is incredibly disappointed this has happened on top of the natural disaster,” Kennedy Park World War II Trust chair Chris Owen says.

“It’s just another set-back to getting the walkway and stairs functioning again.”

There have been fires on previous Guy Fawkes, but further from the stairs.

The stairs were originally due to reopen in late 2018, Owen says. Then, earlier this year, the due date became October, then before Christmas, but now it could be later still.

Scores of people previously used the stairs daily, Owen says, including walkers, runners, swimmers and people exercising their dogs.

Three fire appliances attended the fire about 11pm on 5 November, says Takapuna senior station officer Mark Neville.

Fireworks are the likely cause, although the fire fighters didn’t see any activity when they attended.

“Scrub and grass fires are not uncommon on cliff edges on the North Shore,” Neville says.

Well alight… Flames licking up the cliff at Castor Bay

David Green, president of Castor Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, was at home when he smelt smoke and heard the police helicopter.

Green joined others running up to the park to help. He spoke to neighbours who were first on the scene and threw buckets of water on the fire.

“It is disappointing given the stairs were due to reopen before Christmas,” Green says.

Auckland Council says the delay may not be as bad as it could have been.

Head of operational maintenance Agnes McCormack says it is fortunate the stairs were being built offsite, with the intention of lowering them onto piles, so were not affected by the fire.

“While the existing structure did sustain damage that will need repairs, we were incredibly lucky the rebuild works and installation hadn’t started,” she says.

“We estimate the project will be delayed by at least a few weeks due to fire damage and repairs.

“Revised timings for the project will be confirmed once we receive the official damage report from engineers currently assessing the site.”

A consent for the project was granted in July, before geotechnical work to stabilise the bank began. A report to the local board last year estimated the cost of the project at $470,000.

This article originally appeared in the November 22 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.