15 May 2020

Man jailed for starting fires in Tasman region

2:15 pm on 15 May 2020

A man has been sentenced to more than three years in jail for starting fires in the tinder-dry Tasman region.

Merv Randle could see the fire at Pigeon Valley from his property soon after it began earlier in 2019.

The fire at Pigeon Valley. Photo: Supplied / Merv Randle

Benjamin Durrant and Abigail Page were found guilty of lighting a fire on the Moutere Highway in late February last year.

The pair also lit another fire on Pigeon Valley Road in early March before being arrested.

That happened during a complete fire ban and weeks after a huge blaze started in Pigeon Valley.

Durrant had posed as a frightened resident and spoke to RNZ after one of the blazes.

Via video link from the High Court in Wellington, Justice Goddard sentenced Durrant, who started both fires, to 3 years and 4 months in jail.

Justice Goddard said the offending was serious and cost more than $200,000 to put out both fires.

He said it was lucky that precious fire fighting equipment was already nearby, but noted it had to be diverted from the huge Pigeon Valley fire.

Justice Goddard accepted Durrant's offer of $2000 reparation and directed that be given to a family that suffered property damage from the Moutere Highway fire.

Page, who drove a car during both fires, was discharged without conviction.

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