14 Jan 2014

Auckland church target of arson attack

4:23 pm on 14 January 2014

Auckland police are investigating an arson attack on one of New Zealand's most well-known and historic churches.

The blaze began at St Mary's Church, next to the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, at 3.48am on Tuesday.

One of the doors to the church is charred.

One of the doors to the church is charred. Photo: RNZ

The Dean, Jo Kelly-Moore, said the fire was on a porch and the damage was mainly external. She said her husband noticed the flames and used their kitchen fire extinguisher while a neighbour called the Fire Service.

One of the entrances is blistered and charred. Rev Kelly-Moore said the lucky fact he spotted the fire before it was out of control was a divine moment.

She said it is scary that the fire could have been worse and sad that there are people who don't have a sense of treasuring special places in the community.

The church was the setting for funerals for some of New Zealand's most famous people, including Sir Edmund Hillary. It was built of kauri in 1886 and was also used to farewell former Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves.

St Mary's has a Category 1 Historic Places listing and has sprinklers and a monitored alarm.

Police sent a dog unit after two people were seen running from the building on Tuesday.