16 May 2013

Nelson couple facing $1m bill over fire

10:00 pm on 16 May 2013

A Nelson couple ordered to pay more than $1 million in damages over a fire which destroyed a neighbouring home and forest are waiting to hear if they can appeal.

The High Court has ruled their dumping of ashes outside their property near Glenhope led to the blaze in 2009.

Steve Garnett and Tracey Lynch turned their rural property near Kahurangi National Park into tourist cabins and created a bed and breakfast business known as Three Tuis.

In November 2009, Mr Garnett dumped ashes from a cabin woodburner while clearing up after some guests had left.

A strong breeze spread the fire 4.7km, destroying a neighbouring home on Dry Weather Road and a forest owned by Nelson Forests.

In a High Court decision released this week, Justice Forrest Miller said he did not accept that Mr Garnett had checked the ashes carefully for embers.

The couple have been ordered to pay $488,944 to Nelson Forests, $571, 593 to the Fire Service Commission, $31,289 to the Waimea Rural Fire Committee, as well as other costs including interest from 2009.

Tracey Lynch said they are waiting to hear if they can appeal the ruling, but will have to give up their home to pay the costs.