House fire 'deliberate'
The Guy homestead is a charred mess but there are hopes the ruined historic building will yet be restored.
The Saturday evening fire is believed to be arson and a person was seen running from the property as the blaze took hold.
Firefighters arrived at 7.42pm and it took five appliances to douse flames that had taken hold in the rear of the building.
The homestead sits ntsG proudly nte on top of a grassy hill next to The Hub on Ti Rakau Dr and is owned by people in Hong Kong. Miscreants and vagrants have vandalised it for years.
Howick historian Alan La Roche says it has been on the market at $3.5 million for many years but people who wanted to restore the kauri house could not afford the price tag.
''The owners had no interest in saving the building, they just wanted to make money out of it,'' he says.
Chris Tate of Chris Tate Architecture wants to relocate and restore the homestead at a rural property overlooking the Hauraki Plains.
He says he would allow the public some access and is now investigating whether it is possible to move the fire-damaged building.
''It's obviously going to cost a lot more and be a lot more work,'' he says.
The building is classified by ntsG both nte the Auckland Council and the Historic Places Trust and a week before the fire Mr Tate wrote to the council expressing his interest and saying the state of the building was ''a travesty''.
The council replied last Wednesday that it and private interests are looking at restoring the homestead on site and its future would be resolved within months.
Mr La Roche says the pro dhtected building was probably the best homestead in East Tamaki when it was built by Andrew and Rose Guy on the orchard and dairy farm they bought in 1899.
He says degradation started when Manukau City Council bought it as a heritage building and rented it to students who negotiated free rent because they were looking after it.
The tenants made a motorcycle track inside the building by cutting holes in the walls and joists which made the roof sag and the house impossible to rent.
Subsequently it was sold to private hands.
Mr La Roche says ''the big question now'' is what the council will do with one of the few remaining heritage buildings in southeast Auckland.
''My recommendation to council was that they should take the protection off the building and let someone move it to a better site and ask the developer to contribute towards that,'' he says.
''I've restored buildings just as bad.''
Howick resident Nick Neben drives past the old building every day on his way to work and six months ago took up a campaign to get the council to protect it.
''We tried really hard for six months - I'm pretty pissed off with the whole thing.''
Mr Neben believes the land, worth $1.5 million with the building, will now be worth the $3.5 million the owners are asking because development restrictions will undoubtedly be lifted.
Fire risk management officer Phil Faidley says the blaze was lit with intent and caused significant and extensive damage.
''As I understand it, there have been some other small fires in the past which may be more related to illegal residents,'' Mr Faidley says.
''But to me this was a deliberate attempt to cause damage.''
Detective Senior Sergeant Darrell Harpur says the fire appears suspicious and a person was seen running from the scene after it started.
Anybody who saw activity in the area or who has any information can call the Ormiston CIB on 261 th1300.