Developer Ian Cassels has called a huge blaze that destroyed a landmark building at Wellington's Shelly Bay "a shameful waste" that has set back his $500m development of the area.
In his first statement since this week's fire, which investigators have deemed suspicious, he said his company had been working closely with Fire & Emergency NZ, police and the Wellington City Council with "urgency to mitigate the impact".
"Our sincere thanks to everyone involved in that response."
The blaze broke out early on Wednesday morning and destroyed the Shed 8 building - widely known as the sawtooth building -where Cassels has long planned a $500 million development with local iwi Taranaki Whānui.
The building was scheduled to be demolished in August after engineering reports made it clear it was "too far gone" and the Wellington City Council, which owned the building, issued a demolition order in December.
On Thursday, police confirmed the fire was being treated as suspicious. The building was unoccupied and not connected to electricity, ruling out other causes.
They had finished the initial scene examination but were expected to return to the site late next week, once it was safe. The site has been handed over to the Wellington City Council.
Council spokesperson Richard MacLean said a 300-metre exclusion zone with temporary fencing had been established around the site of the fire because of asbestos.
It was likely for particles to become airborne when the site was cleared by specialist demolition contractors next week, he said.
A timeline for the road closure would likely be finalised by early next week. The walking and bike tracks from Mt Crawford to Shelly Bay Rd would remain closed but the ridgeline track remained open.
The cause of the fire was yet to be determined.
Cassels said he was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
Significant investment had gone into architectural plans, landscape plans, urban design plans, and engineering, he said. The fire caused delays to the project, bringing additional costs, loss of equipment, significant health and safety risk, and environmental impacts.
The loss of any heritage materials that could have been reused was a "shameful waste, for all of Wellington", Cassels said.
While the outcome of the investigation was yet to be determined, he asked people to "please pause before making insinuations online" and said some had been "deeply hurtful".
Cassels said he still looked forward to seeing the development happen.
The site was already a hotbed of controversy with Wellington City Council granting the development of 350 homes, a retirement village, and more via a non-notified resource consent, cutting out the chance for public submissions.
Local outrage led to that decision being chucked out and the resource consent going to a panel of independent commissioners who eventually granted consent.
A 525-day occupation at Shelly Bay started after the Council agreed to sell and lease its land there to developers. It came to an end in May 2022.
In January this year the sod was turned on the development, but the celebration was met by protesters.
- This story was originally published on Stuff.co.nz