Concerns SkyCity convention centre blaze will have serious economic setbacks for Auckland

There are concerns Tuesday's fire at the SkyCity convention centre will have a serious economic impact on the city. 

Even before the blaze, construction delays meant thousands of people who'd booked conferences had to shift venues. 

The cranes above the convention centre have been a prominent sight in the Auckland skyline, but the area has been a construction zone for much longer than anticipated.

"To me this is a major concern to the tourism and convention sector ," says Michael Barnett, of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

In February, a six-month delay to its opening date was announced because of aluminium panels - the same that burned in the Grenfell Tower disaster - needed to be removed.

And even before today's blaze, thousands of delegates had to shift venues due to construction setbacks. 

Those include an Asia Pacific Ophthalmology meeting booked for 3,500 delegates, the World Veterinary Congress with 1200 delegates, and the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness, which had a gathering planned for 2,000 people.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the fire will have consequences for the city.

"It's obviously going to hold up the construction further which is a worry, we obviously have APEC coming up, it's too early to tell how much a setback this will be," he says.  

APEC in 2021 will be a massive event, with thousands of international visitors. 

It's tipped as a once-in-20-year investment opportunity. 

Barnett says the further delay will have a significant economic impact.

"It will be hundreds of millions of dollars," he says. "Already there are companies that are starting to look at bookings that they thought they had here and are testing other hotels and venues here in Auckland."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says "it's a bit premature" to weigh up the costs just yet.

"What is the concern of the Government now is that the fire gets put out as fast as possible, the damage is assessed and that reconstruction continues."

Auckland Tourism says until it understands the true extent of the damage, it won't know exactly what impact it'll have on when work can resume  - and when the new centre can open.