Future goes up in smoke


The owner of two Queenstown houses destroyed by fire says he’s under-insured and has lost everything.

Iain Ballantyne, 60, was on a dream holiday in Bali with daughter Tiree when he was told his Aspen Grove properties had burned to the ground.

The Scotsman, who lives and works in Perth, says the future he slavishly toiled for has been cruelly taken away.

He’s in the “darkest moment” of his life and is urging other homeowners to check their insurance covers the full cost of a rebuild.

Ballantyne says: “When I found out about the fire it was like being hit with a sledge hammer.

“It was painful to see the photos and videos.

“But my first thoughts were thank God no one was killed or injured and thank God I’ve got insurance.”

Ballantyne says his insurance company told him the cover for both properties - a three-bedroom house and three-bedroom house with studio - was just $395,000.

“They told me I can’t afford to rebuild. So I’m up shit creek without a paddle.

“The mortgage is $500,000 so the bank will now step in and I will end up with nothing.”

Fire chiefs blame the fire on hot ashes left in an unsealed metal bucket on a deck being whipped up by the wind. 

But Ballantyne bears no ill will towards his tenants.

“They’ve been in there for years and have always been dream tenants.”

Ballantyne, who works installing blinds and curtains, is just unsure of what to do now.

“I loved my houses and now I’m facing a huge loss in my life.’

It will costs tens of thousands of dollars to demolish the gutted buildings and clear the site.

Insurance Council NZ ops manager Terry Jordan says under-insured properties are a national problem.

There are multiple ways to assess how much it’ll cost to replace a property.

The least accurate method is a standard default to $2000 a square metre. Then there’s a Cordell online insurance calculator. The third option is to get a valuer to assess the replacement value. The last – and most accurate - way is to use a quantity surveyor.

Jordan: “Paying for extra cover on the top end is a hell of a lot less expensive than paying afterwards.”