A woman has been arrested at Wellington airport and charged with assaulting an Eketahuna farmer who was last week left reeling after losing a home on the farm to a suspicious fire.
Andrew Drysdale said he started as manager of the Atea Trust dairy farm more than six years ago after his best mate and farm owner Stacey Death was almost killed when he lost control of his car and hit a bridge only minutes from the Mangaroa Rd property.
Mr Death received serious head injuries in the crash and was left severely disabled and unable to speak. The two-bedroom stucco house that was destroyed by fire last Wednesday morning is the former Death family home in which his friend was raised, Mr Drysdale said.
Both men went to Nireaha School and each of their families had been farming in the district for generations.
Mr Drysdale said he milks 170 cows on the property and since starting as manager had become a 50:50 sharemilker on the farm.
Volunteer fire crews from Eketahuna and Pahiatua had battled the blaze for more than two hours but were unable to save the home, which is sited about 10km from Eketahuna. The loss was devastating, Mr Drysdale said.
"I took over out here so the family could feel like their farm is safe in my hands and I'm responsible. Now every time I come to the end of my drive and look at the place I cringe. Reality hits me every time I see it.
"I used to visit here when I was a kid. Stacey and I were mates and our parents were friends too. Our parents' farms are the only intergenerational properties in the whole area. That's a lot of memories gone up in smoke."
Mr Drysdale said the Death family were incensed at the destruction and farm trustees had visited the ruined property, which was insured.
Dannevirke police Detective Jane Borrie said the blaze was being treated as suspicious and investigations were ongoing.
A 25-year-old woman had been arrested and charged with assaulting Mr Drysdale during an incident last Wednesday and other matters were also being investigated. Police had intercepted the woman at Wellington Airport and she was to reappear in Wellington District Court yesterday on the assault charge, Detective Borrie said.
"She was attempting to fly out but I don't know if that was related to anything here or if she had flights arranged. She was arrested at the airport."
It was understood the woman had been attempting to board a flight to Australia.