Foul called over engineer shouldering CTV blame

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 17:05 12/12/2012

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The daughter of the Christchurch City Council engineer who signed off on the Canterbury Television building says her late father was failed by his bosses and is left carrying the can for its construction.

A royal commission report this week found council consenting officer Graeme Tapper had misgivings about the structural integrity of the design, which were proved correct when the building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake.

However, no record of his concerns being addressed exists.

Tapper felt pressured by council chief engineer Bryan Bluck to approve the permit in September 1986, the commissioners found.

They also found it was likely Alan Reay, principal of the engineering firm that designed the CTV building, convinced Bluck that concerns about the design were unfounded.

Speaking from Wellington today, Deborah Tapper said her father was a "stickler for rules".

"He tried very hard to have that held up at the planning stage because he wasn't happy about those plans at all. He was tearing his hair out because nobody would support him," she said.

"On this occasion, [Bluck] chose to side with Alan Reay and overrule Dad. The council should not have signed those plans off and Dad knew that."

Her father and Bluck shared concerns about the city's quake-prone building stock, but Bluck "failed" him on the CTV design, she said.

"What do you do? Do you fall on your sword? Do you just quit, or do you stay there and make sure the building codes improve?" she said.

She said her father lived near Canterbury University and would often go in to speak with engineering academics to improve his understanding of new design processes.

He had devoted his retirement to helping the elderly as Christchurch Grey Power president.

Tapper died in 2004, aged 71, as the result of medical misadventure.

Having known the emotions of an avoidable death, Deborah Tapper backed CTV victims' families and survivors' claims for compensation.

"I feel so bad for those families. I don't think that building should have fallen down," she said.

"I don't who's going to pay, but it just shouldn't have happened."

Mayor Bob Parker said an "appropriate message of support" could be offered to Tapper's family once the findings were analysed.

"We could give a blanket apology to any staff member who at different times in the process has had their family feel under a great deal of pressure because of things that have been said or done, or maybe not said or not done," he said.

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