Flames rose and tears
The Paradise Homestead had survived for 131 years and was a
restored luxury lodge which cost $1200 a night.
But yesterday lightning struck and the historic homestead -
on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park near Glenorchy -
burned to the ground.
The building is owned and operated by the Paradise Trust and
chairman Tom Pryde is devastated, as are the manager of the
property and countless others.
Nearly $1 million was spent restoring the Heritage New
Zealand category 1 building which officially reopened in
Mr Pryde said lightning struck a nearby power pole at 6am
yesterday, resulting in a surge to the homestead's power
The homestead's manager, who was visibly upset yesterday, had
been staying in the cottage next door, Mr Pryde said.
''It [the surge] was so violent and big that it shook the
house, paintings fell off the walls ... the meter box
exploded off the wall and sockets exploded out of the
Fire crews battle the blaze at the Paradise Homestead.
Photo by Christina McDonald.
But at that stage ''there was no sign of fire at all''.
With the phone and power out, the manager drove to Glenorchy
to call an electrician, the trust and others.
''She returned an hour or two later and found it on fire.''
The fire was ''an absolute tragedy'' not just for the trust
and guests but also for people who contributed money,
paintings and furniture, Mr Pryde said..
The homestead was built in 1883 by New Zealand's first
government architect, William Mason.
It sits on 128ha surrounded by cottages, also managed by the
trust, which were unaffected by the fire and power surge.
Paradise Homestead was an exclusive retreat and Mr Pryde said
it was too early to say what would happen next.
''But we're not going to get our chin down about this. The
place is insured, but we obviously can't rebuild the same
place,'' he said, before adding, ''It's not the only part of
The condition of the access roads caused problems for the
fire crews yesterday.
The narrow gravel road up to the homestead stopped two fire
engines in their tracks and a section of boggy lawn near the
homestead stranded another for a short time.
As the rain fell, people with close ties to the homestead
watched as it gave its last groans.
Glenorchy builder Mike Kingan, who restored the old
landmark, could only shake his head and say the building had
been ''completely'' restored and was equipped with fire alarms
and fire walls.
Lakes District Museum director David Clarke said the
homestead was one of the first ''wilderness-type lodges'' in
New Zealand, originally catering for the original adventure
tourists who would travel to Glenorchy on TSS Earnslaw and
have a ''wilderness experience''.
The loss of the property was ''absolutely gutting'' as before
the restoration it had been ''a hair's breadth away from
Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade officer in charge Dion
Halmshaw said at its peak the fire was fought by 14
firefighters from Queenstown with three appliances and a full
complement of volunteers from Glenorchy.
Mr Halmshaw said the homestead - the equivalent of a
three-bedroom home - had been destroyed by the time the first
two of three Queenstown crews arrived at the scene, having
turned out about 9.50am.
Mr Halmshaw said a firewall between the homestead and an
accommodation wing prevented the fire from spreading.
Firefighters using breathing apparatus, ladders, hand tools
and hoses fought the fire internally, pulling down a ceiling
and the firewall to extinguish the blaze.
Once it was contained, beds, linen and other items were
Firefighters last night were ''buggered'', he said.
''It's been a big day.''