Social climber

Legendary climber Sir Edmund Hillary's home, in the exclusive neighbourhood of Remeura on New Zealand's North Island, is being sold at auction in two weeks time, but now Remuera Heritage Society is racing against time to save the property and turn it into a museum for the nation to enjoy…

Famous for being the first man to conquer the world's highest mountain, Sir Edmund Hillary actually made his living from a more modest profession – bee keeping.

Born and brought up in Auckland, Sir Edmund climbed mountains all over the world, including in the Alps and the Himalayas, where he climbed 11 different peaks of over 20,000 feet.

Sir Edmund had his share of personal tragedy – his first wife Louise and their daughter were both killed in a plane crash in Nepal in 1975.

In one of his books, he wrote that he contemplated suicide but later recovered and married the wife of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who died in the Air New Zealand DC10 Erebus crash in 1979.

Following his death last year, the Remeura home, which he built in 1957 and lived in for more than 50 years, was put onto the market and is lined up to be sold at auction on March 18 th .

The home, which is bursting with Sir Edmund's mementoes collected from all over the world and has views across the water to Rangitoto Island, is valued at £672,000.

But, the Remuera Heritage Society is worried that the relatively modest home will be sold to a private buyer and demolished to make way for a multimillion-dollar mansion on the prime site on the northern slopes of Remuera.

They are keen to preserve the house and turn it into a museum for the nation to enjoy.

Remuera Heritage President Terry Sutcliffe said the Auckland City Council , Auckland Regional Council, the Government and funding groups like the ASB Trust should devise a rescue package to pay for the purchase.

"The house could become a museum and be used as a residency by people associated with Sir Edmund and his Himalayan Trust and Remuera Heritage could become the custodians and manage the home," said Mr Sutcliffe.

Not everyone is keen on the idea of a Hillary museum though. Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said that financial help to buy the house ‘would not be a priority for this Government,' and Sir Edmund's daughter Sarah said that it would be ‘impractical to use it as a museum and that it would not fit in with her father's ‘proactive approach towards people.'

Picture by jonnykeelty