Waiau residents coming to terms with the loss of their local tavern after fire

Waiau residents are coming to terms with the loss of their local tavern after a fire burnt it to the ground overnight. 

Fire crews spent hours battling the blaze at the Waiau Lodge Hotel north of Christchurch. 

Still smouldering, the charred remains of an iconic Grand Lady. Just hours earlier, the dry old wood of the historic two-storey building became kindling for a massive blaze. 

When I opened my curtain it was all flaming and the sky was yellow," said resident Piyush Savaliya.

Crews were called to the scene of the Waiau Lodge Hotel after midnight, arriving in just six minutes, but there was little they could do to save their pub. 

"Total burn out and due to the age of the structure and the fact that most of it is timber and the fact that when it was first seen by the firefighters it was already very, very well burning, I don't expect that there would've been any way to save it," said fire investigator Bevan Findlay.

Locals on Saturday were in complete disbelief as they looked on at the destruction of what was once a community hub. 

"The feeling in the town is grief. This community has been through a lot post-earthquake and now having to deal with the loss of an amenity, but the historical value that this building brings to the community is intense so they are in grief at the moment," said Hurunui Mayor Marie Black.

Waiau resident Jude Flintofit said: "It's always been a lovely old building. I worked there for a wee while. I certainly went in there as a teenager and it was a great place. A good local place for everyone to gather and catch up."  

The Waiau Tavern has been sitting unoccupied and not connected to power since the Kaikoura earthquakes. Its owners, who've been working desperately to repair the building, are devastated. 

"They're absolutely gutted, I suppose is one word that I could describe. They're just feeling really in stage one of grief," said Black.

Fire investigators were on the scene at first light, working to determine what started the blaze. 

"At this stage it's too early to tell exactly what caused it," said Findlay. 

Flintofit said: "It'll be interesting to see now what will be the next chapter, what will grow out of the ashes." 

Perhaps already too familiar with rebuilding, residents here now left looking for a new local.