Heartbreak in trail of wreckage by firebug

22:22, Mar 10 2014
Shane Pritchard
Ruined plans: Picton man Shane Pritchard will no longer be travelling the North Island in his flatmate's campervan after it went up in flames

A man whose boat was set on fire in Picton said the outcome could have been tragic if the flames had spread another metre to a neighbouring flat.

The boat was one of four separate fires in Picton on Sunday morning about 3am which police believe were deliberately lit. Three boats and a campervan were set alight on Angle St and Wairau Rd, each within a five-minute walk of one another.

Christchurch man Lenard Bielawski was woken at 4.15am on Sunday morning in his Hornby home by a neighbour in Picton who told him his boat and four-wheel-drive vehicle had been destroyed.

Lenard Bielawski
Uninsured: Christchurch man Lenard Bielawski was gutted when he got a call saying his uninsured boat was set alight at his Picton holiday home

Mr Bielawski and his wife have owned a holiday home on Angle St for 13 years. The couple left their cabin boat, a Rae Line 186C, and a Land Rover Discovery, parked outside their Picton holiday home because it was cheaper than towing it back and forth from Christchurch, he said.

The early-morning wake-up call came as a shock.

"I went a bit numb when I heard," Mr Bielawski said.


"You just don't expect that sort of stuff."

He drove to Picton later that day to assess the damage and clean up the mess.

He was "gutted" when he saw what was left of the boat, which he bought new about four years ago for $47,000, he said.

The insurance for the boat ran out in December and reinsuring it was on his list of things to do, he said.

The flames also spread to the rear of the 4WD, which was attached to the boat trailer, as well as up the veranda, melting the plastic roof. Firefighters arrived before the blaze spread another metre to the flat next to his.

Things could have been a lot worse, he said.

The fuel tank for the boat and the 4WD were 80 per cent full, but neither tank exploded.

"It could have been tragic," he said. "It could have killed someone."

After seeing the devastation in Christchurch caused by the earthquakes and the flooding this month, many people in his home town were a lot worse off, he said.

"At least I've still got a house to live in."

Picton man Shane Pritchard awoke to the sound of a bang and a crack outside his house on Wairau Rd about 3am. He went outside to find his flatmate throwing a bucket of water on his blazing campervan, an old converted Nissan parked up the drive and out of sight from the road.

Mr Pritchard and his flatmate planned to travel to the North Island in it in May, he said.

They phoned 111 and were told there were already fire appliances out on jobs in Picton but the Blenheim brigade would be there shortly.

By the time they arrived, he and his flatmate had doused most of the flames before they spread to the back of the campervan.

"We were lucky. It would have spread - an old wooden house like this wouldn't last long."

A police spokeswoman said police were investigating the fires. Items had been sent for forensic examination, she said. It appeared someone had walked along Wairau Rd, lighting the fires.

Police were keen to talk to anyone who had information about the fires or had been in the Wairau Rd area about 3am on Sunday.

The Marlborough Express