An historic Wellington house has been destroyed by fire tonight, bringing the central city to a standstill and closing major roads and tunnels.
Firefighters have been tackling the blaze on Abel Smith St, Te Aro which is now mostly under control.
Twelve fire appliances were at the scene, including two aerial appliances.
The fire has consumed the entire house and a crowd of people gathered at a cordon to watch the blaze, with some onlookers taking photos and video of the inferno at the three-storey building.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) incident controller Mike Dombroski said emergency services fielded multiple calls reporting a "substantial fire" in the derelict building around 6.08pm.
"When we arrived, we found a well-involved, two-storey building," he said.
Police arrived at the scene around 6.20pm, where officers assisted firefighters in placing a cordon around the area and provided traffic control assistance.
"We haven't yet been able to enter the building due to its structural integrity, and we won't be doing so this evening," Dombroski said.
Fenz will be at the building overnight and ask that bystanders and motorists avoid the area, he said.
NZTA reported the Terrace Tunnel and Arras Tunnel were closed with diversions in
A specialist fire investigator working with police will begin an investigation into the source of the fire tomorrow morning.
The property is a famous Wellington landmark – it was designed by William Crichton and was built in 1898.
Once a private hospital, in recent years it has served as a community centre and as a hub for a range of activists and environmental causes.
The property was the scene of a dawn raid by police in 2007 as part of the investigation into allegations of terrorist training camps in the Ureweras.
Lebanese Society of New Zealand Inc president Gabriel Ataya said it was a sad day for the Lebanese community.
The building used to be occupied by the Lebanese Society of New Zealand which dissolved in 1978, however, it has been cared for ever since then, he said.
"It's very sad to see the old headquarters of the Lebanese Society of New Zealand go up in flames, a sad day for the Lebanese community," Ataya said.
"We will look to tomorrow to see what we do."
Fire crews remain at the scene and more information would be available later tonight, the Fenz media liaison officer said.