The prime minister in power when the convention centre was agreed to says the fire is "a tragic event for everyone involved" but expressed confidence in SkyCity and Fletcher Building's abilities to recover.

Sir John Key said he was at an Air New Zealand board meeting yesterday not far from the centre "and we could see the flames and now I'm actually at ANZ. The smoke is really thick coming up Hobson St and the smell is very strong."

He defended the convention project from those who criticised SkyCity getting its exclusive licence extended 35 years and being able to

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