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Flames raze Dutch Kiwi

In the “swinging 60s”, the leafy hills of Waitakere were one of the few places Aucklanders could enjoy a wine or cocktail with a meal. Down in Oratia was the Harres’ Town & Coun- try Roadhouse located in the old Parr homestead, Albion Vale. Up West Coast Road was the Lanes’ Back o’ the Moon. And Rolf Feijen and his partner H Romyen ran one of the first licensed restaurants in Auckland when they converted the old Waiatarua Boarding House (then in flats) into the smart and fashionable Dutch Kiwi Restaurant
Feijen had started with a tearooms of the same name at the “elbow” on the corner of West Coast Road and Forest Hill Road before moving up to the old boarding house where he and Romyen undertook extensive renovations. In January 1962 they received a licence to serve liquor, along with the Toby Jug in Titirangi, two of only three restaurants Auckland-wide able to serve alcohol. With a resident band and lots of padded vinyl in the interior, this was indeed the go-to place for weddings, twenty-firsts and end-of-year bashes. Boasting a huge selection of wines and spirits, a dance floor and spectacular views over the lights of Auck- land, the place was often booked out.
But everything went badly wrong on the night of 13 January 1970. The chef, Nicolaas van der Valk, preparing meals in the kitchen, found the deep-fryer on fire. After an unsuccessful attempt to phone the Glen Eden Volunteer fire crew, he returned to find the kitchen billowing smoke. He retreated outside taking with him two pet dogs, Percy and Kim, then asked a couple who had been waiting for the doors to open to go up to the store and get the store owner, Mr R Langley, to raise the alarm. Behind him the kitchen exploded.
First on the scene was the truck of the newly formed Waiatarua volunteer fire service. Wa- ter was short and cars in Scenic Drive got in the way. A portable pump was brought in and the hose rolled up from a neighbouring swimming pool. Volunteer fireman T B Whyte began hosing through a window but despite being 10 yards away, “one of my sleeves started to catch fire in in the heat”. The Henderson fire crew said they could see the fire from their station as they left it, and radioed for more help. Eventually eight machines and 40 firemen attended but “the restaurant was an inferno by the time they arrived”. The roof collapsed and 12 firemen had to be treated for burns. The Dutch Kiwi was a complete write-off.
Rolf Feijen got on the phone to cancel the 60 guests booked in, while mourning the $14,000 worth of wine that went up in smoke. He estimated the total loss at about $120,000 includ- ing stock and fittings.


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