Four houses and an organic farm commune have burned down in Coromandel where a scrub fire raged out of control overnight.
Strong winds fanned the flames in Whitianga, making it too dangerous for firefighters to battle the blaze, which started yesterday afternoon.
Principal rural fire officer for the Thames Valley Paul Shaw said four houses - along with the Wilderland centre for sustainable living - were wiped out overnight. Four sheds also burned down last night.
The Wilderland residents were safe with family and friends, after the centre, which is located beside the Whitianga estuary, was evacuated, he said.
Wilderland was founded in 1964, becoming a charitable trust in 1992.
About 120 people visit each year, staying for weeks or months at a time.
Mr Shaw said three helicopter crews were working frantically to protect the remainder of homes.
At the time he said he estimated the fire has grown from 20 acres to 40 in tinder-dry conditions, but RNZ now understands the fire spread to 11ha.
Mr Shaw said they do not yet know what caused the fire. People should be aware there was a total fire ban.
He said about 30 firefighters would battle the blaze this morning.
The Fire Service was alerted to the blaze on Comers Road, between Kaimarama and Coroglen, just before 5pm yesterday.
Last night the fire burned through eight hectares of scrub and several homes were evacuated.
Local principal rural fire officer Paul Shaws said it was too dangerous on the steep land to keep fighting the fire overnight.
The four destroyed outbuildings were on Comers Road.
Home becomes evacuation centre
Local resident Craig Hodge's house was used an evacuation centre, with three families staying at his house.
He said helicopters landed in his paddocks, and he was nervous about the fire and his animals.
"Where we are, we're safe, fire can't really get to us but... we've got a lot of our neighbours here at the moment and they're quite anxious," he said last night.