Engineers' work investigated

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014

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Five engineers are being investigated for "potential issues" with their work on four Christchurch properties approved after the September 2010 earthquake.

The Government has refused to name the buildings as doing so could commercially disadvantage their owners.

The four properties do not pose any safety risk as they have been repaired or demolished, but the engineers responsible could be struck off, suspended or fined if their work is found to be lacking.

The Government review of the Christchurch City Council's consenting system revealed "potential issues with the quality of design work provided by those engineers during the consenting process" for four buildings, said Minister of Building and Construction Maurice Williamson.

The Institution Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) will investigate whether any engineers concerned performed services in a negligent or incompetent manner or breached the relevant code of ethical conduct. All affected engineers had been informed.

Williamson said that if any disciplinary action was taken, the parties involved would be named and penalties stated on the registration authority's website.

"The review is a reminder to the engineering profession that buildings need to be designed to meet Building Code requirements, and the council consenting process does not absolve the engineer involved of that responsibility."

Williamson said that following the Christchurch City Council's consenting crisis last year, engineers raised concerns about the design and safety of seven buildings with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

A review by MBIE's chief engineer Mike Stannard found in all seven cases the council consenting process "reasonably relied" on the expertise of the applicants' engineers when issuing consents.

But, in four cases, the engineering advice had potential issues, the review found.

The four buildings were consented between September 2010 and November 2010.

An MBIE spokeswoman confirmed one building had since been demolished because of earthquake damage.

All four properties were for commercial use, but only one was in the CBD, the MBIE spokeswoman said.

IPENZ chief executive Andrew Cleland said he was "not interested in the outcome of the buildings themselves . . . only the engineers who worked on them".

If the engineers in question were chartered professionals they could be struck off, suspended or fined.

"We don't have the right to prevent them practising . . . but it would often affect their ability to secure work," he said.

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He could not say how long the review would take.

Council director of building control and city rebuild Peter Sparrow said he would be "very interested to hear the outcome" of the IPENZ review.

He was confident the council's consenting process had been improved through a range of initiatives.

Separate teams had been introduced to process residential and commercial consents and forecasting systems were able to match resources to consenting demand, he said.

"A new management and team structure means the council has the best building control team possible for making smarter decisions."

- The Press

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