Police seeking couple over Skippers fire

Detectives and Fire and Emergency New Zealand officers examine the remains of Mount Aurum...
Detectives and Fire and Emergency New Zealand officers examine the remains of Mount Aurum Homestead at Skippers, near Queenstown, which burned down early this morning. Photo: Guy Williams
Skippers homestead. Photo: Andy King50, Wikimedia Commons
Skippers homestead. Photo: Andy King50, Wikimedia Commons
The historic Skippers homestead, with the green roof, and various sheds also on the site, is...
The historic Skippers homestead, with the green roof, and various sheds also on the site, is pictured on the left. The Skippers Point School, pictured to the right of this photo, escaped being damaged by the blaze.

Queenstown police want to speak to a couple who fled the scene of a fire that razed an historic homestead at the Skippers camping area this morning.

Mount Aurum Homestead and a small outbuilding were burnt to the ground in the blaze, which started about 2am.

The fire was contained to the two buildings after a frantic effort by eight other campers at the Department of Conservation (Doc) site, about 20km north of Queenstown.

Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of Central Otago CIB, said a man and woman, believed to be from Queenstown, may have been in the homestead when the fire started.

The couple, who were driving a maroon-coloured vehicle, were apparently using the homestead to stay in.

"We're very keen to speak to them to complete our account of what happened. We ask them to make contact with Queenstown police.''

The cause of the fire was still unknown, Det Sgt Shaw said.

Police and a fire safety investigation officer have launched investigations into the cause.

Campers worked in relay with three hand-pump fire extinguishers to contain the fire to the homestead, outbuilding and surrounding lawn.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand communications shift manager Tim Reynolds said about 20 firefighters and appliances from Arrowtown, Queenstown and rural fire attended the incident.

The fire was fully out by 4am, he said.

According to Doc, the homestead was one of only two remaining timber buildings in the Skippers area dating to the gold rush era.

The neighbouring school, which was not damaged, was built in 1879.

Both buildings are listed as category 2 historic places by Heritage New Zealand.

Its website states the homestead was "probably cobbled together from at least three other small timber buildings'' and inhabited by runholders of the former Mount Aurum Station from the 1890s.

Doc restored the homestead and school in 2011.

- Detective Lisa Watt 021 191 5361, Queenstown police (03) 441-1600.

 

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