One of Auckland's most historic central-city churches has been extensively damaged in a major blaze.
Emergency services rushed to Ponsonby after the fire broke out at the 141-year-old St Stephen's Presbyterian Church on Jervois Rd on Saturday afternoon. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Numerous fire engines were at the scene after the fire broke out. Several police cars cordoned off an area near the building, and surrounding streets - including the Shelly Beach Rd motorway off-ramp - were closed.
Smoke from the blaze could be seen from as far away as Auckland's North Shore.
Police said they were called to assist Fire and Emergency with the blaze at St Stephens at 3.30pm.
As of 5:45pm, 18 fire trucks had attended to fight the blaze which was still alight, but was contained. By 8pm, five fire crews were dampening down hotspots, mainly in the inner-roof void.
The church is a Category 2 building and is made of kauri, according to the Heritage NZ website.
According to the church's website, the original church opened in 1879 and was designed in a Gothic revival style by architect Edward Mahoney. In 1907, a major extension was added in an Edwardian style influenced by the emerging Baroque Style and designed by architect Robert Martin Watt.
A police spokesperson said they were assisting in a traffic control capacity.
NZTA tweeted that the Shelly Beach Rd off-ramp was closed due to smoke from the fire.
St Stephens Rev Grant Ridout was watching his church burn and said "he'd been better" when asked how he was coping.
"I actually don't know a lot and I don't think they know a lot yet. Just trying to contain it and keep it under wraps as much as they can but there's not much information at this stage about how it started," he said.
"The building was empty. I'm standing out the front and there's a lot of smoke and that's pretty much all I know at this stage.
"I don't know what it looks like on the inside or where things are at. We're just watching from a distance.
"Up there [in the roof of the church] it's just pretty much wooden rafters. The whole building is made of wood so there's nothing much up there it's just cavity space."
Ridout said there was no construction or any sort of work being done in the ceiling.
Matt Mannoni from the Jervois Steak House across the road from St Stephen's said at 4pm that the fire seemed to be have been brought under control.
However Jervois Rd was blocked and traffic was congested, Mannoni said.
"The traffic is pretty packed up. The road is completely blocked both sides," Mannoni said.
"It's definitely something in the ceiling, that's all I can see from here," Mannoni said of the location of the fire.
On its website, the church states: "We believe the church is about imperfect people coming together to love God and each other. We aim to encourage, equip and spur each other on in our love for Jesus Christ and his love for the world.
"We do not believe that the church should be about keeping Christians busy doing in-house things. We'd rather grow people than programmes. We'd rather live the good news outside of our walls.
"Come and check us out, we'd love to meet you."
It also states: "St. Stephens Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby has stood for more than 134 years and is registered Historic Place Category 2, with Heritage NZ.
"The original Church opened in 1879 and was designed in a Gothic Revival Style by an established and well known architect, Edward Mahoney.
"Later in 1907, a major extension was added in an Edwardian style influenced by the emerging Baroque Style and designed by architect Robert Martin Watt."
"In 1994 Architect William Algie provided plans for alterations and additions to the Second Hall, that included a walkway and porch linking the building to the church. A verandah was also added on the East side and a car park area developed alongside, where small cottage had previously stood before demolished."
"A Manse was also part of the original church complex and having been designed and built in 1908, the building was eventually sold in 1997."