Owner still unaware of suspicious fire

BROOKE GARDINER
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012

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The owner of an unoccupied Queenstown cabin destroyed by fire early on Saturday may not yet be aware of the blaze.

Police are treating the fire at the Glasgow St residence at 5.50am as suspicious and have launched a joint police and fire service investigation.

Neighbours, woken by the noise of the fire, alerted emergency services to the blaze.

Volunteer fire crews from Queenstown and Frankton got the fire under control within minutes, but the upper storey of the property was gutted. No-one was injured.

The cabin is on council-owned land at the edge of the Lakeview Holiday Park.

Police and Queenstown Lakes District Council staff have not yet contacted the owner, who is believed to be in a remote spot in Australia.

Detective Grant Miller said an appeal for information led to a couple of people contacting police but they still wanted to hear from anyone who had seen or heard anything relating to the fire.

Council communications manager Meaghan Miller said staff were trying to get hold of the property owner to find out what he wanted to do.

"We will want the property either to be repaired or removed."

However, getting hold of the man could prove to be difficult.

Council-contracted APL Property senior property manger Dan Egerton said all efforts to reach the owner via email, phone and site visit since 2010 were unsuccessful.

The lease for the property is due to expire in September 2015 and all annual ground rent fees were up to date.

With the owner unable to be contacted, Mr Egerton said APL Property employed contractors to clean up the site, which was littered with asbestos-lined debris.

"We were quite lucky on Saturday because it was quite wet . . . we are fairly confident that it [the asbestos] is completely contained," he said.

APL Property, on behalf of the council, would seek to recover the cleanup costs, he said.

If it was unable to get hold of the owner, the council may be forced to make a decision about the future of the building.

"We don't want to have a half burnt-out structure sitting on council property for any great length of time . . . if we can't get hold of the owner that is a possibility."

brooke.gardiner@st.co.nz

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