The first images from inside Auckland's mysterious fire-ravaged NZ International Convention Centre have been released showing the cleanup in large interior areas.
Head contractor Fletcher Construction and client SkyCity Entertainment Group agreed to provide an update on work on the locked-down site.
Fletcher's pictures reveal before-and-after images of a plenary area and meeting space to show progress on the site.
The fire started on October 22. Last month's Fire and Emergency NZ report said it was accidental and burned for 10 days.
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The first Fletcher images from December 2019 (above) show the impact from the fire on the vast plenary or theatre area, which is scattered with debris from the damaged roof.
New photos from May 26 show progress made in the ongoing clean-up, including removing of fire-damaged materials from the roof and partition walls, as well as plant and equipment that had remained after the fire.
The plenary or theatre is one of the larger areas in the convention centre, designed to take more than 2000 people at once.
The second pair of images (above) show one of the meeting areas on the same level as the theatre in December, with debris scattered throughout. Cones mark safe areas post-fire for staff to move in.
By May 26, the area had been largely cleared and safety nets installed above to capture any falling debris from the roof. These measures make it safer and easier for staff as they carry out detailed damage assessments and prepare for construction to resume in the near future.
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Fletcher said that late last month that building work resumed at the centre and neighbouring Horizon Hotel when New Zealand moved to alert level 3.
"Fletcher Construction staff are pleased to be back on site as momentum grows in the ongoing recovery. The number of people on-site has gradually increased as new health and safety protocols have been bedded in. An average of around 180 people a day are in the office and on-site, including both Fletcher staff and subcontractors," the contractor said.
Gary Walker, Fletcher Construction's buildings general manager, said: "Our staff are hugely invested in this project and they're excited to have been able to get back to work on this iconic building.
"A big focus after the fire has been on the continued clean-up of the convention centre and hotel, which is a major process and involves careful considered work across all levels.
"Most of the fire damage occurred at the auditorium levels of the convention centre, with water damage in the lower levels and basement.
Walker said the final vehicle was removed from the convention centre basement in March.
Much of the material handling and access equipment had also been removed, he said. That included cranes, forklifts and elevated work platforms that stayed in the centre for many weeks after the fire.
"The detailed clean-up of both the convention centre and hotel is expected to continue for several months. While this is underway, we have been progressing with other work, including undertaking the complex and detailed damage assessments and progressing plans for the centre's reconstruction. Deconstruction and dismantling work has also been taking place, and some construction work is expected to resume shortly.
"Work on the Horizon Hotel has focused on the deep clean of the building as well as minor re-construction work. We have completed much of the exterior clean of this building, with the focus now on completing the interior."
Graeme Stephens, SkyCity chief executive, praised Fletcher's work.
"It is pleasing to see the progress the team on site have made to safely clean up the areas impacted by the fire and water damage late last year. We look forward to construction recommencing soon," Stephens said.
Fletcher also provided an image of a vehicle being removed from the convention centre's basement.
In February, the Herald reported how after 115 days, around 180 vehicles remained trapped beneath the centre. The vehicle graveyard was then yet to be disturbed, although the water had been drained.
"They're write-offs, mouldy," said Stephens of the programme of works yet to begin to recover the vehicles. But the vehicles gradually emerged in the weeks following, trucked out onto Hobson St.
The fire was found to have been caused by a gas torch which accidentally left cardboard material smouldering on top of the under-construction centre.
The cardboard core of a waterproof roofing membrane roll smouldered for more than half an hour during a lunch break before it burst into flames, causing the fire. The cardboard roll had been inadvertently exposed to a worker's gas torch and it smouldered undetected for 38 minutes, according to investigators.
The fire started in the gutter area on the western side of the top of the seven-level centre and quickly spread to the roofing membrane, being fanned by strong gusting winds.
Wind played a key role in the development of the initial fire and its spread across the roof, the investigation showed.