Fire at historic Paradise homestead

03:20, May 23 2014
paradise homestead fire
PARADISE LOST: The Paradise Homestead has been destroyed in a fire.

A lightning strike caused a major fire that ripped through a remote historic homestead at Paradise near Glenorchy.

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Heavy rain meant rivers, which have to be crossed to access the homestead, were running high when firefighters were alerted to the fire at 9.50am today. Units from Glenorchy and Queenstown went to the fire. Firefighters remained at the scene dampening down the fire this afternoon.

Fire investigators would not be sent to the scene as the case had been established, the Fire Service said.

The homestead is owned and operated by the Paradise Trust, and the property has a category one heritage listing.

It has been owned and operated by the Paradise Trust since 1998 after terminally ill former owner David Miller offered to give it away to the right owner, fearing what could happen to the property if developers began to carve it up.

Costing $950 a night, it is the luxury option for guests alongside several cottages on the grounds.

The trust's website said the homestead was designed and built in 1883 by William Mason, New Zealand's first government architect and later the first mayor of Dunedin.

He had planned to use the 128-hectare property as a retirement farm, but failing health prompted its sale to the Aitken family who operated the guest house for the next 50 years.

From the late 19th century to the beginning of World War II, tourism was a growth industry in and around Glenorchy. By 1884 increasing numbers of wealthy adventure seekers were taking the two-hour horse and buggy trip from Glenorchy to visit Paradise and Diamond Lake.

Paradise competed vigorously with Glenorchy Hotels and the Arcadia guesthouse next door to host these early "eco tourists".

The Aitkens ceased operating Paradise House in 1943 when it was sold to the Veint family, of Queenstown. The Veints continued to operate Paradise House as a guesthouse until 1949, when it was bought by the Miller family with whom it remained until the death of David Miller in 1998.

BEFORE THE FIRE: Paradise Homestead.


* Correction: An earlier version of this story had a photo of the Arcadia Homestead, a different property. We apologise for the error.


The Southland Times