Watch: Historic Skippers Canyon Homestead burnt to the ground in 'suspicious' fire

The historic Mt Aurum Homestead at Skippers has been burnt to the ground after a large blaze tore through the building north of Queenstown overnight.

Two buildings and 1200sqm of vegetation were destroyed in the fire, which was discovered by campers around 2am.

Around 20 firefighters from Queenstown and Arrowtown reached the scene of the fire at 3am.

"There was campers up there that more or less got stuck in and got it controlled," Queenstown senior station officer Dave Christie told the New Zealand Herald.

The homestead, also known as the school house, was one of two timber buildings in Skippers Canyon dating back to the gold rush after it was built around 1863.

The historic school nearby was left unscathed following the blaze.

Police are appealing for a man and woman who camped at the Mt Aurum Homestead around the time of the incident to come forward.

The fire is being investigated as suspicious.

The historic homestead near Queenstown was built during the gold rush around 1863. Source: 1 NEWS


Who are NZ's homeless? Thousands of Kiwi kids and it could be getting worse, expert warns

An estimated one in 100 New Zealanders are homeless with 24 per cent of the total homeless population being children and there are warnings this number could be higher.

According to 2013 census data, which was collated by the University of Otago, Wellington's Dr Kate Amore in her Severe Housing Deprivation in New Zealand study, around 41,000 Kiwis are classed as homeless.

"Before we did this we had no idea what the scale of homelessness was and if you need to address something you need to measure it and I think it has changed the conversation about homelessness," Dr Amore told 1 NEWS.

The data has always been collected every census but wasn't tapped into until 2001 when the first study by Dr Amore was published.

"This is the first work that shows the scale of the problem."

Dr Amore's study also uncovered the number of children 15 and under who are classed as homeless was close to 10,000.

"There are minors, children, sometimes on their own, but often with their family," says Dr Amore.

Discovering this last number in the 2013 census data, she predicts the number of homeless could have risen since.

Who are the homeless in New Zealand?

It was in 2009 that Statistics New Zealand, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development produced a definition for homelessness in New Zealand.

It defines homelessness as: "Living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are either without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodations or living in uninhabitable housing".

This includes those sleeping rough, in cars and people who are in boarding houses, camping grounds and staying in other’s lounges or garages.

"For most people we're not talking about home ownership, we're talking about accessing a place to rent so anyone who can't access a place to rent is homeless," says Dr Amore.

Although rough sleeping and families living in their cars have become the picture of what homelessness looks like in New Zealand, 70 per cent of the homeless population are living in overcrowded conditions.

"There's only a small portion of the population sleeping on the streets. Half of the overall population are under 25, so it's a lot of young people, young families."

Nearly half of the population are women and a quarter are aged 15 to 24-years-old.

What causes someone to become homeless?

Dr Amore says homelessness is largely about affordability of housing for those on low incomes with nearly half of the homeless population in work or study.

"We know if there was a plentiful supply of affordable housing we wouldn’t have a homeless problem."

Other causes of homelessness are low incomes, care and support failures and for a small proportion personal circumstances.

Homeless numbers on the rise

The next census data should reveal the current number of New Zealand's homeless population which Dr Amore says could exceed the estimated 41,000 number.

"I hate to speculate, but since 2013 there are things that have happened that make us suspect that it's worsened."

Growth in population, the shortage of homes especially in Auckland and surging house prices have largely contributed to this.

"We know from population growth and demand on housing overall that the gap in the number of new dwellings we need to house the population is at least that number in Auckland."

This is despite there being enough dwellings in New Zealand to house the total population.

"It's not a lack of housing per say it's just that it's not equitably distributed with some people having multiple houses while some people have none."

Dr Amore says both governments have worked hard to address the issue of homelessness but that the number is "many times" higher than they currently building for.

"It's a great start, but we know that the need is every day growing and growing."

There’s no official record of how many Kiwis are homeless, however census data gives an estimate of those without a home. Source: 1 NEWS

Former Auckland community board chairman is jailed for over four years for live streaming child sex shows

An Auckland businessman and justice of the peace has been sentenced to four-and-a half years in prison after earlier pleading guilty to charges involving the live streaming of child sex shows.

The 75-year-old, who also formerly served as an Auckland community board chairman, spent around $100,000 over a nine-year period paying suppliers in the Philippines for both adult and child services.

Martin Henry Lawes told police the amount of money was not significant because he was a multi-millionaire.

He stated he was helping the people involved by giving them money as they were often living in poverty.

Lawes set up two email accounts under fake names to access the sex shows and objectionable material.

Often they would involve children, some as young as 3 years old, undressing and engaging in sexual activity.

He would at times direct them to perform certain acts.

His offending was exposed during an ongoing international investigation.

Lawes resigned as Chairman of the Takapuna Local Community Board in 2010 and has been a Justice of the Peace since 2005.

New Zealand Police, the FBI and Filipino authorities teamed up to bring Martin Lawes to justice. Source: 1 NEWS


Police arrest four teens, aged 14, 15, 16, 17 and two adults after violent Palmerston North dairy heist

Palmerston North Police have arrested four teens and two adults accused of participating in a violent aggravated robbery of a Bunnythorpe dairy yesterday afternoon.

The group entered the business around 3.30pm armed with baseball bats, threatening the shop attendant, authorities said.

Those charged yesterday included a 14-year-old, a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 17-year old and adults aged 20 and 29.

The group had fled the dairy in a stolen vehicle, which was later found abandoned, said Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Sheridan.

But police stopped a second vehicle a short time later and detained those inside it, police said.

Authorities are still looking for witnesses to the robbery, or anyone who might have noticed a white Mazda Atenza station wagon around the time of the incident.

Those with information are asked to call police at 06 351 3880 or leave an anonymous Crimestoppers tip by calling 0800 555 111.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS


'It's a safety issue': Concerns not all Kiwi motel rooms fitted with smoke alarms

Motel owners are being asked to lift their game and use smoke alarms, after a Fair Go viewer complained about the lack of this basic safety feature in a unit she booked.

Rebecca Bangma was travelling for work and returned to her unit to find a smoky mess after a spatula melted in the dish washer.

There was no alarm sounding. No smoke alarms had been fitted in the unit.

Rebecca says she raised it with the motel manager.

"They said that it's a good idea to put smoke alarms in, but they don't have to."

Under the Building Act, anything signed off before 1991 must only meet the building code of its day.

If the building has undergone major renovations and needed a further building consent, that triggers a fire safety catch-up, but there is plenty of wriggle room too.

The building must meet code "… as near as reasonably practicable". It’s up to the local council to decide.

"I just thought it wasn't a good choice really not to have them. It's a safety issue, people are paying to stay there, they should really look after people," Rebecca told Fair Go.

The chair of Accommodation Advisory Council backs the call.

"Generally, I would like to think most accommodation providers are providing a smoke alarm in each room," says Nigel Humphries, who is also a motelier with 20 years in the business behind him.

He admits there is a bit of a loophole in the law, but after speaking to Fair Go he will be pressing for changes in the industry.

"You've got a responsibility. People are staying with you. You've got to look after them. You don’t want your place burning down with someone having an accident in one of your rooms," Mr Humphries says.

In his motel in Te Anau, Mr Humphries has fitted smoke alarms in every room.

At the motel which triggered this complaint, the local council has confirmed it has no power to insist on smoke alarms.

The building has a sprinkler system and manual alarm switches and a fire safety company checks regularly, but in the rooms, there’s nothing to sense smoke and raise the alarm if no one is awake inside.

"When we sleep we lose our sense of smell so you're unlikely to wake up by smelling the smoke and that's why the detector is so important," says Peter Gallagher, the National Risk Manager at Fire & Emergency.

That’s one reason smoke alarms are now required in any newly-built homes and landlords must fit smoke alarms in any rental property, regardless of the age of the building.

"It's about a 40 second advantage by having a smoke detector,” Peter Gallagher says. In a fire, that could be the difference between escaping safely or suffering injury, or death.

Rebecca Bangma says it seems like the law is inconsistent.

"We've got a rental ourselves, so we have to have smoke alarms within three metres of all the bedrooms."

She’d like the law to change, but so far nothing is planned.

Building Minister Jenny Salesa told Fair Go she encourages all building owners to use smoke alarms but would not comment on a law change.

If a business is legally not obliged to fit smoke alarms, that could make it hard to insist on a refund if you arrive at a motel and don’t feel safe because there isn’t a smoke alarm fitted in your room.

Morally, says Nigel Humphries, a motel would do well to let the customer out of a booking in that situation, or just avoid the problem arising.

"You can buy a smoke alarm for ten bucks. It involves a bit of time. I'd really think if they're that concerned about ten dollars every couple of years, there's other issues they’ve got to worry about."

With the industry providing 40 million guest-nights a year to New Zealanders and foreign visitors and with tourism now our biggest export earner, he’s hoping motels get that message and fit smoke alarms.

If you’ve booked a weekend away, your room could be alarmingly unalarmed. Source: Fair Go