Wellington hostel fire: Christopher Luxon offers 'thoughts and prayers' to victims and families


Politicians visiting the scene of the fire in Wellington today have praised first responders and signalled inquiries into regulations could come at a later stage.

National's leader Christopher Luxon said his thoughts were with the victims and responders.

"It's pretty shocking what we've seen here overnight, and our thoughts and prayers are definitely with the people who've lost their lives, the families who've lost loved ones, and those that are now fighting for their lives in hospital as well as being grateful for our responders."

He said he had spoken to two people who had been on the second floor.

"One had gone to the bathroom and had realised there was smoke-filled hallways and woke up his colleague and got out of there. I think there's going to be a time for us to ask some bigger questions about what has happened here and to get an appropriate inquiry under way."

It was a privilege to hear first-hand from the firefighters and other first responders about what they were wrestling with, and he had "huge admiration" for their bravery in re-entering the building when it was on fire, he said.

"In there was a fire service fireman who had actually just been there two months. There was others that had been there two years, and there were others that had been there 47 years.

"It was one of the biggest events they've experienced, for sure.

"You're very struck by the camaraderie and the quality of the team and the way they support each other."

His deputy, Nicola Willis, said they would have had some trepidation about the task of re-entering the building knowing they would likely be finding bodies.

"It's not something we would push upon anyone but that's the service they do for our community to ensure that loved ones can be returned to their families.

"Shocking news to wake up to this morning, a real nightmare, and I'm struck by this feeling that it's not the sort of incident you expect to see in New Zealand in 2023.

"Just real feelings for all of those who were both in the building and trapped, their family, their friends, but also those who escaped.

"I'm really conscious that these are some of the vulnerable members in our community, these are people that will require a lot of support over the next few days."

Willis is running to be the MP for Ōhāriu in the city's west, and said she had confidence in Wellington as a caring community.

"We've already seen the city mission and others - local churches - come in to make it clear to everyone that was living in this building that Wellington is here for you, we know you've been through a terrible time and we want to help you."

She said the time would come later for deeper inquiries into whether regulations were appropriate and followed.

"Everyone's still involved with the ongoing rescue and clean-up efforts. I just want to pay respects for those involved."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who gave an update on the situation to media at Parliament earlier, also went to the scene and spoke to some of the responders.

"It was clearly a really difficult set of circumstances that they confronted when they got here and a lot of work over the last few hours to get people out of the building to stabilize the building. Now a difficult job ahead, as they ascertain when they can get back into the building to do the next difficult and tragic part of this process," Hipkins said.

Visiting the scene was "quite confronting," he said.

"Just to speak to the first responders who are on the scene in terms of what they dealt with when they arrived in the small hours of the morning. Clearly a traumatic situation for them, I know that they'll be feeling this at the moment," he said.

He said the fire had reiterated the need for safety regulations at accommodation providers.

"This isn't just a bureaucratic exercise, we have regulations in place around health and safety for buildings, because bad things can happen. It is important that we regularly review those, as we always will, to make sure that we're providing people with the level of assurance that they deserve."

He would not rule out reviewing safety requirements.