16 Jun 2022

Rainbow Youth Tauranga drop in centre destroyed in suspicious fire

2:33 pm on 16 June 2022

A fire broke out at Rainbow Youth and Gender Dynamix's Tauranga office at around 1am today.

A wooden building damaged by fire.

Police say the fire is being treated as suspicious. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

Police were treating the fire as suspicious .

The building is in Tauranga's Historic Village, on 17th Avenue, and is shared by both Rainbow Youth and Gender Dynamix - a clinical and social organisation meeting the specific mental health and service needs of Western Bay of Plenty's transgender and gender diverse communities.

Rainbow Youth executive director Pooja Subramanian told RNZ they were devastated by the news.

"Not just for ourselves but our wider community in Tauranga, it really just feels quite shocking."

They were yet to receive any confirmation regarding the nature of the fire but said they had not been subject to hate crimes in Tauranga before.

Subramanian encouraged the LGBTQIA+ community to reach out to friends if they needed support.

"It can be very triggering for many people, and I imagine young people are feeling it the worst."

She said Rainbow Youth would rebuild.

"We will do everything we can to set up a space for rangatahi as soon as possible."

A police spokesperson said enquiries would be made alongside Fire and Emergency.

A wooden building damaged by fire.

Police say the fire is being treated as suspicious. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono co-lead Anjum Rahman said nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.

Rainbow Youth board member Shaneel Lal had this morning launched a crowd funding campaign following the fire.

LGBTQIA+ health advocate and University of Auckland medical student Josh McCormack frequented the centre during a placement in the city during 2021.

He was "deeply saddened" about the blaze "as someone who has personally experience joy and community connection in that space".

Between the fire and recent alleged incidents at Bethlehem College, also in Tauranga, McCormack said "more than anything now, though, we need to give hope to our rangatahi".

"Now is the time for our communities to band together."

People stand around in the street outside the building as a press conference is given.

Media and the community attend a press conference following the fire. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter