On Tuesday 22 October, the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland caught fire and the blaze devastated the construction site. The building was still under construction when the fire happened, but it was enough to evacuate the entire central business district surrounding the new convention centre. The evacuation included the entire SkyCity enterprise in the area – their head offices, restaurants, casino and hotels.
The convention centre is owned and currently being built by SkyCity. The cause of the fire has not yet been reported to the public, and the embers continue to smoulder in the construction site – particularly in the shell of the building that was to be the convention centre. Luckily, the actual flames and fire damage was confined to the construction site, and the casino and buildings surrounding it do not appear to have been impacted at all.
Union Urges Strike Action
On Thursday, only two days after the fire and the evacuation, the SkyCity casino was reopened. The Sky Tower opened the following day, on Friday. The head offices for the group are only scheduled to reopen this week, but employees and visitors were allowed in to fetch cars and other valuables left behind in the evacuation.
The local union, Unite Union, has issued a call to their members working in the casino to go on a strike following what it is calling a premature return to work. Casino workers reported to have had breathing issues and other respiratory complaints while working their shifts on Thursday and Friday. The union is calling for their 1000 members to stay away from work until they get a written assurance that the air is safe.
Officials from SkyCity have gone on record stating that they have been given the go ahead from emergency officials. They were told that the air quality was satisfactory and not harmful to anyone who was working in the area.
Impact Of Fire On SkyCity
Graeme Stephens, CEO of SkyCity, stated that he is proud of how the company operated during the crisis. No one was injured during the evacuation and all the surrounding buildings were kept safe. This is quite a feat considering the number of staff needing to be evacuated was 1250.
The only damage was to the under-construction convention centre. It was due to be complete at the end of next year and open for business in 2021. This now seems unlikely, but the company would have to make a full assessment before announcing a new timeline.