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New Zealand’s PM says NZICC fire won’t impact APEC Conference

The large fire at the under-construction New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), in Auckland’s central business district, will not stop the city hosting a major economic conference in 2021, according to New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

The fire will significantly delay the centre’s opening, which was set for 2020, and puts into question Auckland’s ability to host large-scale business events at a single venue from 2021, including the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Leaders Week event due to be held at NZICC in November 2021.

Nick Hill, chief executive of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) said: “The NZICC is the preferred venue for APEC 2021 meetings in Auckland, it is too early to make any decisions as to whether the preferred venue needs to change.

“As with any project of APEC’s magnitude, there are contingency plans in place around New Zealand’s and Auckland’s intended venues.”

But prime minister Ardern said that “there is no question” as to whether Auckland would still host world leaders for the APEC conference in 2021.

More than 25 fire engines and 140 firefighters attended the scene to tackle the fire that spread across the entire roof of the convention centre. Surrounding roads and shops were closed as a result of the smoke and authorities are urging people to stay away from the centre.

Graeme Stephens, CEO of SkyCity, the entertainment group behind the new centre, said they will be working with Fletcher Building, the contractors building NZICC, to investigate the damage and establish how best to rebuild.

In a statement released on Thursday 24 October, Ross Taylor, Fletcher Building CEO said: “We are all devastated to see the project we have worked so hard on impacted this way and while our timeline will change, our resolve will not – and together with SkyCity we remain committed to delivering a world-class convention centre for Auckland and New Zealand.

“There is now a multi-stage process we must follow to move the project forward. Firstly, fire and emergency teams will remain on site until the fire is successfully extinguished and the site is declared safe to re-enter. Once the site is handed back to us, investigations can begin to determine the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage.

“That will take some time and must be completed in a measured way and with the safety of everyone top of mind. We will work with fire and emergency services, SkyCity, regulators and insurers to complete these assessments. We will then be in a position to look at how we reset the project and determine the impact on the delivery timeline.”

He warns this process is likely to take a “number of months.”

The precinct where the convention centre is located, which also includes the Sky Tower, casino, carpark, hotels and restaurants, has reopened for usual business.