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BOP community grateful to close chapter on arson

Apanui School in Whakatane has lost a complete block of classrooms due to the fire. Photo: Supplied.

News of an arrest of a person alleged to have set fire to a Bay of Plenty school is being welcomed.

The Apanui School community is expressing its thanks to the New Zealand Police and those who have supported the school after it was devastated by fire on February 6.

A 22-year-old man was arrested in Tauranga on Wednesday morning and is due to appear in Whakatāne District Court facing arson and burglary charges.

The accused is also facing an additional charge of aggravated robbery from a separate incident.

Apanui School principal Simon Akroyd says the Board, staff, children and community are grateful for the commitment shown to their school.

“We would like to express our appreciation to the New Zealand Police for their dedicated work in investigating and making the arrest of a person in relation to the arson of Apanui School.

“Our school was devastated by the fire that occurred earlier this year on Waitangi Day. We lost eight classrooms, our administration block and several other buildings,” says Simon.

“Our community (locally and nationally) rallied around us incredibly. We’ve grown in the last six months, ensuring that our children and staff have been at the centre of our focus.

“We’re currently operating with 10 classes on the school site that were not affected by the fire and with another nine classes on a temporary site, which borders our school.”

Simon notes the Board is working with the Ministry of Education to rebuild lost spaces.

“The timeline is to have our children in their new classrooms at the start of 2023 and to have our administration block open from the start of term two, 2023.

“This arrest does not change what happened. It will not affect our day-to-day operation and what school is like for our wonderful children.

“It’s simply another step in our healing.

“Our sincere thanks to the NZ Police for their determined work, communication, support and for their amazing resilience in pursuing a positive outcome for our school.”

Simon highlights the relevance of the school whakatauki, ‘He manu hou ahau, he pi karere - I am a small bird poised for flight.’

Our community is resilient and we’re poised for the new challenges ahead of us.”

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