Auckland Guy Homestead burns down in suspected arson
Sunday 2 Dec 2012 4:57 p.m.
A 114-year-old Auckland homestead was destroyed last night in what is a suspected arson.
Campaigners who fought to restore the house say an important part of New Zealand history has also gone up with the flames and the fire could have been prevented.
The Guy Homestead used to strike an imposing presence on its hill in Howick, but it didn't stand a chance when the inferno broke out around 7pm.
The house was built in 1898 to service a large working farm, but fell into disrepair in the past decade.
“It was glorious and there were big oak trees out the front as well as out the back,” says one historian.
Nick Neben has campaigned to have the house restored or at least boarded, in an attempt to stop vandalism and squatters.
“We approached the council and they said they'd look at doing something this week,” says Mr Neben. “But now it's too late.”
But the Auckland Council says it has limited power to do anything on the private homestead.
The owners, most of whom are based in Hong Kong, bought the property with plans to develop it. But the building's historic status made it illegal to move or demolish it.
The property has been on the market for eight years, but Mr Neben says now it's a write-off. It's value has probably more than doubled to $3.5 million.
The fire started in one room and the Fire Service has told 3 News it's likely an accelerant was used. The fire is now the subject of a police inquiry.
“What were asking is that any members of the public that have seen anybody nearby or acting suspicious, that they contact police,” says Inspector Peter Raynes.
For now, the restrictions on the homestead still apply, so it's unclear what will become of its remains and whether the nearby developments will continue to spread until they cover any last trace of the Guy Homestead's 114 year history.