A multimillion-dollar Waiheke Island mansion, formerly linked to Mark Hotchin, will go up in flames today - with more than 50 people involved in the fire service training exercise.

The two level, six-bedroom, four-bathroom house will be burnt to the ground, after up to 45 volunteer firefighters spend the day "playing with fire" - doing live fire training in the 1990s mansion on the 4.5ha beachfront property.

The 525sq m house has a four-car garage, two-bedroom guest accommodation, a boat ramp, spa pool and tennis courts.

It was bought for $14.25 million in August 2014 by Brent and Denise Sutton and John Burns. Burning the building is a cheaper option than moving or demolishing it.


The property was formerly owned by a trust, KA No3, linked to Mr Hotchin. It was sold to new owners in 2014.

After it is destroyed a mansion designed by architect Andrew Patterson will be built in its place.

Fire Service Counties-Manukau Area Manager Larry Cocker said the opportunity to train with a house was rare and the service would make the most of it.

At 7am about 15 volunteer firefighters from Howick and half a dozen fire service trainers and tutors will board the Waiheke Ferry at Half Moon Bay.

They will take a fire engine carrying 1300 litres of water and a collapsible water reservoir. On arrival they'll meet about 30 Waiheke volunteers, who will provide three fire engines (one to be kept on standby) carrying 1300 litres of water each, and two 7000-litre water tankers.

The planning process for burning the isolated house began after it was offered by the owners to the fire service a month ago.

Deciding whether the property was safe to burn was the first step, Mr Cocker said.

"We have a five-page checklist of things we had to do before we even approached the council for permits."

But Mr Cocker said the realism of the training for volunteers would be worth the month spent organising the event.

"The quid pro quo is we get a structure to practise with and realistic training for our volunteers and the owners get the house burnt to the ground."

Experienced staff and instructors will light a series of small fires, showing how various rooms burn and how blazes can be extinguished safely.

Fires will be allowed to develop before they are extinguished.

"We'll be looking to see a whole room on fire."

They will also run a mock fire investigation to determine how fires start.

Mr Cocker said firefighters would spent the morning training before the house would go up in smoke.

Staff not based on the island will leave at 7pm today.

Firefighters from the Waiheke brigade would remain on site overnight to ensure that the "pile of glowing sticks" did not reignite.

A fire permit issued by the council stipulates that the scenario is weather-dependent - it can't be done in winds from the northwest, north, northeast or east, or at speeds greater than 25km/h.

"I don't want Waiheke to disappear in a cloud of black smoke," Mr Cocker said.

Plastics and treated timbers need to be removed beforehand, and members of the public are not allowed on the property during the burning,

"We'll have enough people there to make sure nothing untoward goes on," Mr Cocker said.

"We're in good shape.

"We do this all the time."



tankers, each carrying 7000 litres of water

Five fire engines, each carrying 1300 litres

One water dam - a collapsible, 2000-litre water carrier

45 Volunteer firefighters

6 Trainers and tutors