Fire destroys luxury Whangamata lodge

MIKE MATHER AND JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 09:59 06/01/2014
Whangamata luxury lodge fire
Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

DESTROYED: A family staying at the lodge scrambled to safety before the fire took hold.

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A luxury  Whangamata lodge that burnt down on the weekend had been on the market for several years and was mainly used as accommodation by its owners, a neighbour says.

Eleven fire engines and 40 firefighters from around the Coromandel Peninsula were dispatched to deal with the blaze at Wentworth Lodge, about seven kilometres from Whangamata, at 2.45am on Saturday.

It took more than two hours to get under control and two nearby buildings and the surrounding bush was also under threat of the fire spreading for some time.

One of the current owners had been staying in an upstairs apartment at the lodge, but managed to get to safety before the blaze took hold, Whangamata Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Kevin Ryan said.

''By the time we got there, the thing was well involved. The smoke alarms worked, which is always the main thing, but it was in very close proximity to surrounding buildings and a lot of native bush.

''We had to source water from a couple of nearby creeks, as the amount in the mobile tank was not enough. We had seven appliances from Whangamata, Waihi, Tairua and Pauanui at the scene, as well as four rural units from Whiritoa and Onemana. It was a third alarm situation, which meant a command unit from Tauranga had to come up to co-ordinate things.

''It's definitely the biggest fire we have had around here for quite some time. The only other really big one we have dealt with lately was a year ago, when the tech block at Whangamata Area School burned down.''

The building's owner, Denise McGregor, was at the scene of the fire, but was too distraught to talk to the Waikato Times .

The owners of nearby Bushland Park Lodge & Retreat, Petra and Reinhard Nickel, woke when the Wentworth Lodge was ablaze. Mrs Nickel said they were fearful that the fire may spread to their luxury lodge with the winds being quite high.

Her husband said the lodge had been built as a conference centre in the early 2000s had had two owners since then.

It was mainly used to house the current owners' families when they were on holiday.

The lodge is currently listed as for sale on primebusiness.co.nz - a business sale website  - for an asking price of  $2.2 million plus GST.

The listing for the ''4 star lodge'' says it has been on the market since 2008 and the broker is listed as current co-owner Gordon McGregor.

The listing also says the lodge ''has been insured for replacement at over $3.5 million based on a registered valuation and this excludes land, site development and contents''.  

Fire Service investigators were still picking through the wreckage of the lodge yesterday and said it could be some time before the cause of the blaze was fully established.

An engine from the Whangamata Volunteer Fire Brigade had to be sent back to the scene to water down a smouldering part of the remains that flared back into life about 3pm.

Set amid five acres of landscaped grounds, the lodge included five spacious luxury suites with king-size beds, sofas, gas fires, private decks and bathroom ensuites. Other features included a ''meditation room'',  a gymnasium, and a billiard room with a full-size slate table.

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Gold mines can also be found at the back of the property.

- Waikato

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