SkyCity Convention Center Fire Rages on in Auckland

  • SkyCity Entertainment Group's US$452m convention center project is in the heart of Auckland
  • Strong winds caused the blaze to quickly spread, firefighters forced to let the fire burn itself out
  • Center initially scheduled for completion by the end of 2020, project will now be delayed
firefighters extinguishing a fire
The SkyCity Convention Center in Auckland, New Zealand, has been on fire for more than 24 hours, thwarting SkyCity Entertainment Group’s expansion efforts. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Expansion efforts up in smoke

Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group has seen its ambitious convention center project in Auckland, New Zealand, go up in smoke.

Witnesses reported black smoke engulfing the biggest city in New Zealand following the outbreak of fire at the site of the SkyCity International Convention Center in the heart of the city.

Struggle to contain the blaze

According to local reports, the fire initially started on the roof of the under-construction SkyCity Convention Center at approximately 1pm on Tuesday.

As strong winds caused the fire to spread, a controlled evacuation was ordered across the entire area. This resulted in the Sky Tower (the country’s tallest building), SkyCity Auckland Casino, and nearby SkyCity hotels, corporate offices and restaurants all being evacuated.

Such was the significance of the fire that every fire unit in Auckland was working on extinguishing the flames. There was also help needed from nearby Hamilton’s fire brigade. To date, just a single injury has been reported following the outbreak of the blaze.

every fire unit in Auckland was working on extinguishing the flames

As a result of the thick black smoke sweeping across the city, officials told residents with breathing issues to remain indoors and turn off air conditioning units. People were also discouraged from traveling to the center of the city.

As nightfall came, the fire still was raging, with strong winds making it very tricky for the firefighters. Gusts of more than 60 kilometers per hour were recorded. Expectations are that these gusts will rise to the 100 kilometers per hour mark on Wednesday, which will further hinder the firefighters. 

Structural issues

According to the fire crews, they will now just have to let the fire burn out by itself. This is due to fears that the under-construction building is not structurally sound enough to allow the firefighters to get onto the roof without exposing themselves to serious danger.

So far, there is no official explanation for the starting of the fire. However, there are unconfirmed reports that a worker who was using a blowtorch on the roof may have ignited some building materials accidentally.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is meeting with the emergency and fire crews on Wednesday, as well as representatives of SkyCity.

Fallout from this fire

When the news of this fire went public, the share price of SkyCity on the New Zealand Stock Exchange fell by as much as 4%. These shares did bounce back a bit before trading closed for the day.

The completion date for this new SkyCity convention center is now up in the air. Initial plans were to have the center finished by the end of 2020, with events already scheduled for the beginning of 2021.

Mayor Phil Goff has said it appears likely the center will not be complete in time for the 2021 meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group. According to Goff, this fire could push back the completion date by a year.

Fletcher Building Ltd. is the main contractor for this project. It will not be able to judge the damage until the fire has been fully extinguished and an investigation begins.