The Canterbury house fire in which renowned Christchurch medical professor Sir Don Beaven has died was not suspicious, say police.

The authority on diabetes and former chairman of the Canterbury Area Health Board was thought to have been alone at his house in Little Akaloa, on Banks Peninsula, when fire broke out about 11.40am yesterday.

The coroner this afternoon confirmed the body found in the house was Sir Don.

Regional coroner Sue Johnson said Sir Don appeared to have died from smoke inhalation and an inquiry into the cause and circumstances of his death is being carried out by the fire service.

Senior Sergeant Stu Munro, of Selwyn police, said a scene examination had been completed.

Sir Don's body has been removed from the site.

Akaroa chief fire officer Kim Stewart said the beachside settlement property was well alight when crews arrived.

The three-storey structure was burnt nearly to the ground.

A garden hose leading in to the house, still running but charred, led crews to fear Sir Don had tried to fight the fire.

Sir Don was a pioneer in major developments in diabetes treatment and prevention, and in many initiatives in public health.

He was foundation professor of the Christchurch School of Medicine and had held medical appointments and fellowships all over the world.

He was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit - the country's highest honour - in the 2005 New Year Honours.

He recently accepted a knighthood after the National Government restored the former honours system.

- NZPA