As firefighters continue to dampen down hotspots at the New Zealand International Convention Centre a massive clean-up and recovery phase has swung into action in the heart of Auckland's business precinct.

It's unclear yet what the damage will cost but SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens described the fire at the $700 million construction site as "absolutely devastating".

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Last night firefighters continued to work at the building, where fire broke out just after 1pm on Tuesday, by pulling bits of iron and roofing materials out and spraying hotspots.

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A large crane will be placed on Nelson St this morning to aid Fire and Emergency New Zealand, which has now launched a formal investigation into the cause and spread of the fire.

It will likely be months before the investigation is complete and weeks before SkyCity and its international insurer can accurately assess the damage.

Last night the New Zealand Professional Firefighters' Union issued a notice to Auckland Local members praising them for their heroic efforts.

Exhausted firefighters continue to dampen down hotspots at the New Zealand International Convention Centre. Photo / Dean Purcell
Exhausted firefighters continue to dampen down hotspots at the New Zealand International Convention Centre. Photo / Dean Purcell

"What shone through was how the incident was able to be managed without major injury to firefighters, despite the limitations enforced on us through a lack of specialist firefighting resources."

The union had received complaints from firefighters about fatigue management, crew rotation, availability call-backs, specialist appliance operator availability and lack of toilet facilities.

Meanwhile, the city was beginning to return to normal following three days of disruptions.

Closed roads were beginning to reopen yesterday, along with the Sky Tower, SkyCity car parking and some selected bars and restaurants in the precinct.

The SkyCity Hotel and Grand Hotel also reopened.

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The potentially toxic black smoke was gone and there were no more flames.

A SkyCity spokeswoman said air quality had been monitored and showed no level of threat.

Auckland Council, FENZ and Watercare were working closely to begin safely removing water accumulated during the firefighting response, from the basement of the convention centre.

Auckland Council Safeswim programme manager Nick Vigar said Watercare was confident the water being pumped into the wastewater network could be safely treated at the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It was expected to take up to another four days to remove the water, he said.

Kilometres of fire hose was wound through seven storeys during the New Zealand International Convention Centre fire on Hobson St. Photo / Michael Craig
Kilometres of fire hose was wound through seven storeys during the New Zealand International Convention Centre fire on Hobson St. Photo / Michael Craig

The Auckland Dragon Boat Association cancelled training after safety warnings were issued for St Marys Bay, where water runoff from the fire was released.

A club member, who didn't want to be named, said she didn't feel safe to go into the water.

"During training, we get completely soaked... there's no way to stay dry on those boats."

Vigar said the safety alert was a precautionary measure and would remain in place for several days.

"We're awaiting further biological toxicity reports, which we're expecting after the weekend. This will tell us the likely impacts on ecology in the harbour," he said.

The city is now open for business though some road closures and bus diversions remained in place in central Auckland.

Auckland Transport was still advising people travelling around the city centre to avoid peak hour traffic, to leave extra time and check the Auckland Transport website, Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Now that the smoke had cleared Auckland Regional Public Health Service said residents should plan to improve their air quality inside homes.

That included opening windows and doors to bring in fresh air, cleaning air-conditioning filters, and ventilation systems, washing down railings, balconies and decks, and wiping down any outside furniture and objects with a damp cloth.

A cleaning expert whose company specialises in restoration cleaning services for residential and commercial properties said the clean-up would be "a nightmare''.

Damage to the outside of the New Zealand International Convention Centre is obvious. Photo / Dean Purcell
Damage to the outside of the New Zealand International Convention Centre is obvious. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland Restoration and Cleaning owner Michael Breen said much of the work that would be required at the NZICC would be decontamination.

As well as fire damage, smoke and flooding damage would also be among the big issues needing to be fixed, not just at the new convention centre, but businesses surrounding it.

"They're going to need cleaning, decontaminating, soft fabrics, carpets - everything's going to have to be treated and cleaned."

It's still unknown whether two of the largest pieces of public art attached to the building, have been compromised although initial suggestions on Tuesday night were that the 550 glass panels had survived.

However there were fears for 13,500 terracotta tiles. The chance to assess any damage was expected to be possible next week.