CTV engineer quits industry body

'A blow for the families of the 115 victims'

MARC GREENHILL AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:17 03/07/2014
David Harding
David Hallett/Fairfax NZ
QUIT PROFESSIONAL BODY: Structural engineer David Harding. Harding was employed by Alan Reay Consultants when the CTV building was designed in 1986.

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Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith says CTV engineer David Harding's resignation from industry body is "disappointing and concerning".

Harding was employed by Alan M Reay Consulting Engineer when in 1986 he designed the Canterbury Television building building, which collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake killing 115 people.

He quit Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz) today, a week before facing disciplinary hearings.

Harding was facing two Ipenz disciplinary hearings on July 14 - one of which he could no longer be sanctioned for if found to have breached standards.

'UNACCEPTABLE'

"It's quite unacceptable for professional people when they are being held to account to simply resign and walk away," Smith said.

"That would not be possible for any building designed after 2002 but the old Engineers Registration Act effectively enabled a person to avoid accountability in this way."

Smith described the resignation as "a particular blow for the families of the 115 victims in the CTV building".

He would not say whether he believed Harding would be held to account, saying it was improper to speculate while police were still investigating whether there was a level of misconduct that met a criminal threshold.

Harding's decision reflected inadequacies in the Engineers Registration Act and "reinforces my determination to make changes to the system by which we regulate engineers," Smith said.

Smith said he would make announcements regarding reforms before Parliament rises at the end of the month.

ALAN REAY BACKS HARDING

The engineer whose firm designed the CTV building is backing his former employee's decision to quit the industry's professional body ahead of disciplinary action.

Alan Reay, Harding's boss at at the time, said he could understand why Harding resigned ''particularly if he has had the same treatment I had when  I tried to engage with Ipenz''.

''I am astonished that Ipenz has been publicly critical of Mr Harding while still intending to continue with  its hearings. It is wrong to do so.''

Reay said at the time of the CTV building design, Harding had been an engineer for 13 years and was allocated a senior draftsman with extensive experience in working with engineers in the design of multi-storey buildings for the project.

''Mr Harding to my knowledge was and is a  conscientious and able engineer whose work was, except for the CTV building, the subject of favourable comment by witnesses at the royal commission,'' he said.

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The second hearing, regarding to Harding's re-assessment for continued registration as a chartered  professional engineer, is unaffected by his membership status.

HARDING WAS 'WORKING BEYOND COMPETENCE'

A report by the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission found that the building had serious design and construction flaws and that Harding was working "beyond his competence".

He was found to have been left largely unsupervised by principal Alan Reay, despite Harding's limited experience designing multi-level buildings.

Two Ipenz disciplinary hearings scheduled for July 14 will still proceed.

However, Ipenz can now no longer make an order against Harding at the first hearing - regarding his engineering activities on the CTV building.

The second hearing, regarding his reassessment for continued registration as a chartered professional engineer, is unaffected by his membership status.

Ipenz said because it could no longer make disciplinary  orders, it was free to make public comments about the CTV building.

It said the royal commission had conducted a ''thorough investigation'' and fully accepted the findings.

Specifically, Ipenz accepts:

- There were non-compliant aspects of the CTV building. The design did not conform to the accepted minimum practice standard of the day in the structural engineering field.

- There were deficiencies in the design work. The primary design engineer did not have the competence for designing a building of the complexity of the CTV building.

- The deficiencies in the design were not corrected through supervision and review systems within the design firm.

- Some deficiencies may have been detected by the Christchurch City Council but were not corrected before a building permit was issued.

- Deficiencies were not detected during construction as might have occurred if the construction manager had been present more often at the site.

- The site inspections by the primary design engineer did not prevent the construction defects from occurring.

''The practice described by the royal commission in its report on the 1986 design of the CTV building is not consistent with what the profession set out in 2009 as a good practice methodology,'' Ipenz said.

- The Press

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