Man charged with arson of his luxury home

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File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A man has been charged with burning down his multimillion-dollar luxury home in the Bay of Islands.

Christopher John Robinson was arrested in Thames on April 17 and appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Tuesday, charged with arson.

The five-bedroom, 500sq m Killara Luxury Lodge, inland from Kerikeri, was destroyed by fire just before midnight on September 9 last year.

The blaze was so fierce firefighters could see the glow almost 10km away.

Hampered by a lack of water and a locked gate, the Kerikeri fire brigade took six hours to extinguish the blaze.

Robinson and his wife Alison, English migrants who bought the property in 2005 and converted it into five-star accommodation, were in Hamilton at the time.

The lodge had been for sale for $2.6 million but was taken off the market in 2011 when the Robinsons became convinced they were being poisoned by 2,4,5-T dumped in the area or used to control gorse in the 1960s.

Robinson launched a campaign highlighting the chemical contamination he believed was damaging his health, and said he was suing the Government for misleading migrants with its ``100 per cent pure New Zealand'' advertisements.

His $20 million damages claim included the cost of future cancer treatment and his losses when he was unable to sell the lodge.

Later he attempted to sue the late Ian Knox, the real estate agent who sold him the property, and State Insurance for refusing to pay out after the fire.

He was also pursuing complaints against the Northland District Health Board and the Northland Regional Council.

Websites detailing Robinson's legal action against the Government and State Insurance, as well as the dioxin, arsenic and lead poisoning he believed he had suffered, have been suspended but a blog about his insurance battle is still live.

On the blog Robinson states that he and his wife are now homeless and surviving on a sickness benefit.

The property is still featured on a UK real estate website for 1 million pounds ($2.1 million), although the site states the lodge is contaminated and has been withdrawn from sale.

The 11.9ha property is now up for mortgagee tender.

Robinson is due back in court on June 18.

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