A commission of inquiry followed. While the cause of the fire itself was never determined, the wooden building housing Ward 5 was roundly condemned. There was little hope of preventing fire spreading once it had broken out. While newer parts of Seacliff had been fitted with automatic fire alarms, in Ward 5 the alarm could only be raised by unlocking a cabinet and pushing a button.
The way in which the windows were shuttered and locked from the inside at night was also criticised, although the efforts of the hospital fire brigade in saving two lives from Ward 5 and successfully evacuating hundreds of others from the hospital were praised. The commission recommended the installation of sprinkler systems in all mental hospitals.
The Seacliff Mental Hospital fire was the worst in New Zealand until the Ballantynes department store blaze in 1947. A new psychiatric hospital was opened at nearby Cherry Farm in 1954.