Ballantynes Fire

Cause of the Fire.

Cause of the fire

51. Mr Nicol, who speaks with undoubted authority, was faced with the charge that some fault in the cable or installation of electric power was the cause of the fire. Each defect or fault was carefully weighed by him. Without excusing the fault, he examined each with meticulous care, to ascertain its possible effect. He came to his conclusion that none of the faults singly, or together, could have caused the fire. We are satisfied he reached his conclusions not to defend electric energy as a whole, but as an expert whose findings would be scrutinised by able electrical engineers in this country and beyond it.

He was supported by the evidence of other expert witnesses. There was no evidence in respect of the general electrical installation in the building which would lead to the belief that this, in any of its parts, was the cause of the fire. It becomes quite clear in our opinion it is impossible for us, in view of the expert evidence, to determine that electrical fault was the cause of the fire with any degree of certainty.

52. We have already stated that there is no evidence, once the alibi of Smith is accepted, that the fire was occasioned by the carelessness of any employee. Indeed, the evidence showed that Ballantynes strictly enforced this rule against smoking, and there was no evidence to support any suggestion that the fire may have originated from such a cause.

53. We must, therefore, answer the first question by saying that the evidence did not disclose the cause and origin of the fire.


Report of the Royal Commission, New Zealand Parliament. Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representives, 1948. vol.V, H-47. p.30-31.