Five weeks since a devastating fire broke out at Auckland's $703 million NZ International Convention Centre, little appears to be happening.
But don't be fooled.
A visitor to the city could be forgiven for thinking the project is abandoned. It certainly presents an ominous face to pedestrians, its gaping dark spaces open to the street, vehicles parked up short, surrounded by orange cones and wire fencing.
But in fact, a lot is going on behind the scenes and it's not just with the insurers that the action rests.
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A Fletcher spokesperson this week revealed that all workers' tools are now out of the smoke-damaged new five-star Horizon Hotel, behind the TVNZ headquarters and adjoining the convention centre.
"The Fletcher Construction company has been liaising regularly with subcontractors since the fire," the company told the Herald .
It wasn't the company's fault that workers had been deprived of their tools for weeks, Fletcher said.
That was because of the nature of the calamity which hit the building and the need for caution in the weeks following the blaze, particularly given the fact that investigations were underway and the need to keep the site secure to avoid safety or legal issues.
"The safety of all people on site was our priority and, as is standard practice during any emergency evacuation from any location, they were advised to leave the premises urgently and to leave personal belongings and equipment behind," Fletcher said.
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Tools to earn a living, cars, keys, clothing, footwear, hats, lunchboxes, water bottles, food - it all had to be left where it was as workers quickly abandoned the site early in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 22.
Then the weeks went by, leaving many workers increasingly angry. But Fletcher said it had done everything it could, within the confines it faced.
"All Fletcher subcontractors' tools and belongings have been removed from the Horizon Hotel site. Workers' cars have also been removed from the NZICC carpark," the company said this week.
That hotel was being fitted out in July when the Herald visited, with many walls plastered and painted, bathrooms complete, floors carpeted and some furniture in place. Just how much smoke damage the 303-room hotel suffered remains unknown.
Next, in what will come as a big relief to the hundreds of workers who were on the NZICC site when the fire broke out, some good news: tools and equipment are now finally to be released from there too.
"We are now facilitating subcontractor access to some levels of the NZICC site to enable them to remove their personal belongings," Fletcher said this week. "This is a complex process being undertaken by structural and environmental safety experts. At this stage, we are not able to give a date by which all subcontractor materials will be retrieved from the building."
Further, it seems there might already have been some preliminary discussions with major demolition businesses. The rumour mill in Auckland has been rife with talk that the whole convention centre will have to be demolished and rebuilt -- though that seems unlikely.
Instead, it appears that partial demolition of materials around the incinerated roof is a far more likely prospect being examined by the various players who need to plan a timeframe to bring tower cranes, people and materials back on site.
New architectural drawings could well be needed unless it's decided to rebuild the roof to the same design and specifications as originally. If designs are changed, new consents could be required.
Project managers will need to return, new health and safety plans must be put in place, subcontractors employed and new traffic management plans written for what will essentially be a repair. Further tower cranes might have to be positioned on streets to get access to the roof. Quantity survey estimates must be sought, engineering studies completed, timelines planned, materials specified, ordered and delivered.
But first, parts of the building which are damaged beyond repair must be removed, and that work won't just be confined to the roof area.
Some in the construction industry fear severe damage to the giant structural steel roof trusses, which were custom manufactured for the building by the well-regarded Culham Engineering of Whangārei.
One building chief at another large Auckland project said he expected those trusses could now be warped or twisted beyond repair, and they would no longer have the structural integrity they were designed to provide.
"No steel could stand that amount of heat for that length of time," he said of the convention centre fire, which took nearly a week to fully extinguish.
No information has been directly released by the companies involved on that potential issue, and whether the trusses are in fact damaged.
Rob Kirwan, managing director of Culham Engineering, said it was heart-breaking "to see all that work go up in smoke. We just only hope we can get it back on track".
Another issue is how much damage has been sustained to the underground carpark areas, which were flooded with water during the fight against the fire. The state of the carparks remains unknown, but one party claims the area is now "toxic".
The repair bill is likely to be hiked further by damage to steel, concrete, wood, wall linings, construction equipment, scaffolds, hoists, the movable upholstered dividers in the centre's great hall, ceilings, flooring, electrical services, cables, networking, hi-tech audiovisual equipment, lighting and other electronics.
In the midst of all the damage, the wonder is that the more than 500 glass panels - or fins - which artist Sara Hughes created to surround the upper level survived the intense blaze. All appear to be in place and undamaged, although it is unclear how much damage has been done to the structure that holds the glass in place. During the blaze, Firefighters kept the glass dampened to stop it cracking or breaking.
The centre's other big art feature - Peata Larkin's spectacular terracotta-tiled wall to the north -- remains under wraps. How much damage has been done to that also remains unknown.
People close to the job say they are waiting with great interest for at least one of two reports expected to come from Fire & Emergency NZ (FENZ).
On November 21, FENZ said it had commissioned an independent review of its management of the "complex and dangerous" fire, attended by 130 fighters and 30 appliances.
The same organisation will also release a report which will have more relevance for convention centre owner SkyCity and Fletcher: that report will outline how the fire was caused.
That's the question which the insurers, SkyCity and Fletcher are thought to be most interested in, but its timing remains unknown.
What has become clear is that the fire is now finally deemed "an insurable event", in the words of one party close to the action.
On Tuesday, Fletcher and SkyCity released statements relating to insurance, though they did not say, as some media reported, that they would get a payout. It was a little more subtle than that.
SkyCity cited contract works insurance and third-party liability insurance and said insurers "would respond" - corporate speak for the insurer taking the first step in what could be a dance that goes on for some time.
SkyCity thanked its lead insurer and its insurance broker Willis Towers Watson "for their professionalism and co-operation in relation to the fire" - a good sign potentially.
Fletcher went on to say a little more, adding that it was now working to determine the impact of the fire on the project's delivery timeline, costs and cashflows, and any potential impact on the construction provisions announced last February.
The company confirmed that based on information currently available, it remained within these provisions. It expects to be in a position to provide a further update when it reveals its half-year result next February.
What might it all cost to fix?
Grant Swanepoel, head of equity research and institutional equities at Craigs Investment Partners, this month said the minimum cost to fix might be $150m although he stressed these were his estimates only. The maximum could be $250m, he said.
SkyCity has refused to comment on any possible numbers at this early stage.
A Fletcher spokesperson said: "It will be some time before any kind of informed estimation can be given due to the complex safety considerations as the building is assessed."
It's not entirely bad news either: Swanepoel said the repair could benefit the builder and could virtually be an entirely new quarter-billion-dollar contract if it did come to that cost. Instead of the fire hurting Fletcher financially, a possible insurance payout to SkyCity could result in so much extra work that it would boost the builder, he suggested.
Before the blaze, the centre was due to be finished next October. It had been built up to its top, or seventh, level. Reports have since said fire damage extended down to level five. Water damage extended right down to the basement, where trapped vehicles were photographed, submerged up to their windows.
Swanepoel believes the next move would be for an instruction to be given by SkyCity's insurer to begin repairs. Fletcher says that based on all current information, it is fully covered by insurance.
Swanepoel said Fletcher's latest update could open the door to potential negative news in February.
Both SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens and Fletcher chief executive Ross Taylor have said their businesses are committed to finishing the project.
Meanwhile, guards surround the site and traffic is still blocked from parts of Hobson and Nelson streets.
Protective wrapping is flapping in the breeze, perhaps the harbinger of a long, hot -- and quiet -- summer on the site.
• Site: 1.4ha
• 33 meeting spaces of various sizes
• Able to host events for 4000-plus people
• NZ's largest theatre, able to seat 2850 people
• Designed by Warren and Mahoney, Woods Bagot, Moller Architects
• 303-room, 12-level Horizon Hotel by Warren and Mahoney, Moller Architects