Whanganui heritage building blaze destroys art, causes 'great sadness'

A Whanganui heritage building that was severely damaged overnight was housing a number of works by local artists.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall told Newshub the fire, centred around the 110-year-old Thain Building, will cause a lot of distress across the community.

"They're the first things that you approach when you come across the main town bridge and it's a very busy and significant corner.

"To hear that it's been severely damaged will be met with great sadness around the community, I think."

The fire broke out at around 9pm on Saturday night and has left a 42-year-old-male in a stable but critical condition in hospital, while a second person who self-reported to hospital has since been discharged.

The building itself is believed to have suffered extensive damage. Fire crews will undertake a full assessment of the building and investigate the fire's source on Sunday.

The Thain Building
The Thain Building before the fire. Photo credit: Google Maps

McDouall told Newshub the blaze has likely consumed a number of artworks, along with the building's interior.

"The new owner has been accommodating a lot of artists there. A lot of studio spaces have been destroyed, no doubt artworks have been destroyed as well."

The Mayor also added that the building was in the process of being strengthened and restored.

"There was an application to demolish this building a couple of years ago and a lot of the community got up and did some quite amazing submissions and, instead of demolishing it, the building was sold and the new owner was absolutely committed to the building.

"He was doing the building up sensitively and was in the process of strengthening it."

McDouall hopes there is a chance some of the building can be saved, as those of its kind are a key part of the culture of downtown Whanganui.

"These buildings really do seem like characters of the city... we all have our favourite heritage buildings in Whanganui and we've lived with them all our lives and so when one is destroyed or damaged then it really does hit your very hard."


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