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Historic house pulled down after fierce fire

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 07:09 28/11/2012
Villa
Jared Nicoll

Going, gone: A digger contracted to Crafar Crouch Construction rips up the 1920s villa in Picton badly damaged by fire on Sunday morning.

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A digger took just four hours to demolish a historic villa in Waikawa yesterday morning.

Crafar Crouch Construction workers, contracted by Marlborough District Council, tore down the 1920s wooden villa at 261 Waikawa Rd.

The house was registered as a class B significant heritage building under the council's Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan but was not registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

It was gutted by fire early on Sunday morning.

Council building control group leader Bill East said the council was given permission to destroy the property by its owner Michael Richardson, of Picton.

He is on holiday overseas and the council contacted him via a third party. He is better known for owning one of Picton's most popular pubs, Mikey's Bar, on High St.

"As a result of the fire, it left the building in a dangerous situation. There was concern that debris like roofing iron and building equipment could blow around," Mr East said.

"If the wind came up, it could blow on to the road, and the neighbouring property of the school across the road.

"We had to spring into action to get it sorted out."

The Resource Management Act required the council to protect historic buildings registered as having significant heritage value but the risk to the public was too great in this case to try to preserve any of the house.

Section 129 of the act gave the council power to destroy the remnants of the building, he said.

"It would normally have a few requirements if it was to be changed and any changes would normally require resource consent."

The villa was one of two homes on the section owned by Mr Richardson. Both buildings and the land had been on the market for $470,000 through Harcourts real estate for more than a year.

The villa had been rented out during the past few years but had been empty for about six weeks before the blaze.

Mr Richardson could not be contacted for comment.

Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said 17 firefighters attended the incident at 12.20am on Sunday. It was so intense it could be seen from two kilometres away and the roof had collapsed when they arrived.

Tasman district police communications officer Barbara Dunn said police were investigating the cause of the blaze, although it was too soon to say whether it was being treated as suspicious.

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- The Marlborough Express

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