Family heirloom lost in home gutted by fire

By Dean Nathan
  • Northland

An heirloom passed down from the great chief Hongi Hika is amongst possessions lost in a home gutted by fire.  It's been a year of hell for solo parent Vanessa Wihongi in which she also lost daughter Shayla and has developed serious health issues of her own.

Solo parent Ms Wihongi is lamenting her losses after a fire gutted the home where she lived.

“My daughter who we lost last year and all our family portraits that I can’t ever get back.  Yeah because I lost Shayla and she was a big part of me and my children and all her possessions that we had was gone as well as my family Manatunga.”

The Fire Service found the fire was caused by a smouldering cigarette butt. She's also been told by the assessor that due to safety reasons she cannot go into the home to retrieve some significant possessions.

“I'm quite pouri at the moment because of things that are really dear to me. As far as I’ve been told it was handed down to my father to my grandmother from Hongi. I'm about the fourteenth generation from me back to Hongi Hika. And it’s still there. I feel it’s in my room somewhere and being a greenstone I don't think greenstone will burn.”

Ms Wihongi has only just been released from the hospital and is now homeless and aware of the difficulties of looking for a new place to live during Christmas.

“Priority for me at the moment is just to be grateful that I still have the rest of my children to be able to have a kai somewhere and a roof over our head because I don't have a fixed abode at the moment I just got out of hospital from major surgery and very grateful to be alive.”

Meanwhile, she is waiting for insurers to allow her to sift through the ashes of her former residence in the search for her lost possessions.