In the early hours of the morning on the first day of August 2009, a massive fire tore through the heart of the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club and Café. Believed to be the result of an electrical fault, the fire virtually gutted the iconic building, leaving little more than a shell and a few charred remnants of what once was.
It could have spelled the end for the club and cafe, but instead, almost before the smoke had a chance to clear, the campaign to rebuild got underway. Despite strong community support, the road to rebuild was fraught with challenges. The most notable of these challenges being Wellington City Council's preference for tearing the Maranui club and surrounding beach buildings down, and replacing these with one, purpose-built surf life saving club and café.
When the council called a meeting to gauge public opinion, 500 people turned up and the message came through loud and clear, "REBUILD!" In just a few weeks the momentum to rebuild rapidly grew, triggering an official press release from Mayor, Kerry Prendergast, spelling victory for Maranui supporters.
Early estimates put the cost of rebuilding Maranui at around $750,000, making it a hard sell considering neighbouring club, Lyall Bay Surf Club, had just had a request for $1.8 million to renovate its dilapidated building turned down. A compromise was in order, so the council decided to gift the Maranui building back to the Maranui club, along with a cheque for $350,000, and, at the same time, hand Lyall Bay Surf Club a similar sized cheque for their renovations.
The Maranui Surf Life Saving Club and Café has been back up and running since May 2010, thanks to the New Zealand Fire Service, outstanding community support and the Wellington City Council. Sprinklers have been installed in the roof and, as the Maranui Café menu says, "the fire only made the coffee stronger".
Check out our gallery for more photos of the Maranui fire.