Site access restricted as ongoing investigation takes place

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Access to the fire-damaged SkyCity site in Auckland has been restricted while ongoing safety and structural assessments were being completed, according to Fletcher Construction chief executive Peter Reidy.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand had handed back the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) site to Fletcher Construction at the start of November.

“Before we can commence re-entry work, and ultimately the rebuild, we have to ensure the site is safe to work in,” Mr Reidy says.

“We have a rigorous process in place to ensure the safety of those people who need to enter at this early stage, to undertake specific assessments.

“It will take us some time to understand the extent of the damage to each area within the seven-level, 32,000sq m site.

“We need to assess every floor, every structure and the 1327 car parks beneath the fire where there is significant water damage.

“It will be some time before our workers are allowed back into the building to begin the process of cleaning up the damage and then beginning the rebuild work.”

Mr Reidy said initial priorities had included getting vehicles out of the building, and to retrieve tools and personal belongings where possible.

“This has been a very challenging period for our client SkyCity, for Aucklanders generally, and for our people. They are devastated about what has happened, and face a huge job ahead of them now.

“We want to thank Fire and Emergency New Zealand and St John for the enormous amount of work they have done, and all the Aucklanders who have been so understanding during this disruption.

“SkyCity and Fletcher will work closely together on plans for the rebuild, and remain determined that this iconic building will be finished,” Mr Reidy says.

Meanwhile, E tū Union is throwing its support behind the teenager at the centre of investigations into the SkyCity fire.

Nothing is yet proven about the cause of the fire, and E tū Union, like everyone else, is waiting for the findings of the inquiry, E tū special negotiator Joe Gallagher said.

“Anyone can make a mistake, and people in construction work in hazardous environments. The fire is a reminder of that,” he said.

“But it’s been good to see the main conversation about the young guy so far has been one of concern.”

The union is providing support to the apprentice at the centre of the investigations, as well as construction workers, he said.

Sources said the teenager was working for a subcontractor and had left a blowtorch unattended. After realising his mistake, he went back to his work spot only to discover a fire had already started.

At time of going to press safety assessments were continuing, and investigators were preparing their report for release in “due course”.