The owners of a property where a rubbish pile sparked a devastating wildfire near Christchurch will not face arson charges.
Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Farrant said after extensive inquiries into the January blaze - which destroyed two homes and numerous sheds, ravaged large areas of farmland, and cost more than $200,000 to put out - police had decided against pressing charges.
"[We] have interviewed the owners of the property where the fire broke out as well as multiple other witnesses and agencies," Farrant said.
"At this time there is insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution for arson."
A Selwyn District Council report released in April said the January 10 wildfire began while a fire ban was in place, in a rubbish and slash pile in a paddock at the rear of 32 Selwyn Rd.
The report alleged people living at the address were responsible for the blaze.
A witness statement contained in the council report said a woman had told the witness on the day of the blaze, "I hope that's not the fire I had this morning".
The listed property owners are Jill and Ross Legg.
Ross Legg said the police decision was a relief. The months since the council report was made public had been "a trying time".
"We didn't think it would go there, but people get prosecuted unjustly," he said.
He maintained they set fire to the heap on December 16, before the fire ban started on December 24, but did not know why it re-lit.
"How do we know how it started [on January 10]?"
The Selwyn District Council has recovered the cost of fighting the fire, more than $200,000, from the National Rural Fire Authority, which may still seek to recover costs.
Legg said the couple had insurance.
Council corporate services manager Douglas Marshall said he had no view on the police decision.
"They've had a very in-depth look at it. Obviously the test of being able to pursue it further has not been reached."
Marshall said the impact of the fire was still far-reaching.
"It's very challenging for property owners when they have had damage from a fire that was lit inside a restricted season and caused property damage and stress," he said.
"It's a good lesson that an innocent event can suddenly escalate into something that has significant impact, not only where the fire started, but also their neighbours."
Fuelled by nor-west winds and tinder-dry conditions, the fire burned across 69 hectares of land and destroyed two houses, multiple sheds, vehicles, farm equipment, shelter belts, fences, power supplies, water and irrigation supplies and phone connections.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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