Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman has been pilloried on Twitter for saying that John Key's convention centre stinks of burnt plastic.

Norman sent his tweet out last night saying: "Always said John Key's convention centre deal stank. Today it stinks of burnt plastic, right across the Auckland CBD."

The blaze, which started on the roof of the SkyCity Convention Centre yesterday, raged all night and was still not under control this morning. Auckland Civil Defence has urged people to avoid the city altogether.

In 2013, when Norman was co-leader of the Green Party, he was highly critical of Key's Government and its deal with the SkyCity Convention Centre - in particular the extension of the casino's licence for 35 years and the promise of compensation if future governments interfered with the contract.

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Twitter users respond to Russel Norman's tweet. Photo / Twitter
Twitter users respond to Russel Norman's tweet. Photo / Twitter

"This would be the equivalent of Robert Muldoon in 1978 guaranteeing the profits of tobacco companies for 35 years - we would still have smoking in the workplace," Norman told the Green's annual conference in 2013.

"We've got news for SkyCity: unlike other political parties we didn't take your campaign donations and we didn't go to your corporate box at the rugby.

"Your tools of crony capitalism don't work with us ... and if the people of New Zealand tell us to turn off the tap on your blood money, then we bloody well will."

An auditor-general's report looked into how the contract for the convention centre was awarded to SkyCity, finding no evidence that "inappropriate considerations" such as political connections.

But the report criticised meetings between Beehive staff and SkyCity that took place when senior ministers had already agreed to seek expressions of interest from the market.

SkyCity was also explicitly told information that was not shared with other bidders.

Key said he did not want to dignify Norman's tweet with an answer.

"Events of the last 24 hours have been very sad for everyone involved - SkyCity, Fletchers and the tourism industry."

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Norman has been contacted for comment.

Norman's tweet provoked strong reactions.

Twitter users responded harshly to Norman's tweet. Photo / Twitter
Twitter users responded harshly to Norman's tweet. Photo / Twitter

Among them was Tau Henare, a former National and NZ First MP, who said: "Let it go Russ".

Lesley Hamilton, a former press secretary for Key, said: "Always ready with a mean word in a crisis, eh Russel?" while Twitter user Marc said: "Today is not the day for point scoring."