Engineers remain well regarded

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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Earthquake-induced building collapses and a mining disaster have had a "minimal" impact on the public perception of engineers, according to survey results.

The online survey of more than 1000 New Zealanders by Colmar Brunton was commissioned by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).

The results show that despite the "catastrophic" impact of the Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River mine disaster, the public perception of engineers remains relatively unchanged, when compared to a 2008 survey.

IPENZ chief executive Dr Andrew Cleland said there was also little difference between how people viewed engineers in different cities. Trust of the profession was highest in Wellington, and Christchurch was third out of six regions, he said.

Cleland said the survey results showed that people understood engineering failures were rare and "don't seem to lose confidence when they occur . . . even if they are highly publicised".

The CTV building in Madras St collapsed on February 22, 2011, taking 115 lives and injuring many other people.

A royal commission into the collapse highlighted inadequacies in the building's construction and concluded it should not have been given a green sticker after the September 2010 earthquake.

Cleland said there was no doubt the earthquakes had highlighted the role of engineering in building, but "by and large people have had good experiences with engineering systems".

"There were some things that did not perform as well as expected, like the stairs in the Forsyth Barr building, but the public seem to be able to distinguish between the overall performance of a huge number of engineering systems and the one or two specific failures," he said.

The Colmar Brunton survey, done in September, also found that people knew there was a difference between professional engineers and tradespeople, "but did not clearly delineate the differences".

People's trust of engineers increased "markedly" after an explanation of what they actually did.

Cleland said the Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River disaster led to a "serious" and "renewed" commitment within the profession.

"It heightens that resolve to do things well [and] people become more vigilant, which is absolutely a good thing," he said.

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- The Press

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