CTV engineer admits career 'over'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 16:04 14/07/2014
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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The designer of the failed Canterbury Television (CTV) building has conceded his more than 40-year engineering career is "all but over".

David Harding - the principal engineer of the building in which 115 people died when it collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake - is the subject of three complaints being heard by an Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz) disciplinary committee hearing.

In a statement through his legal counsel, Harding said he was not involved in new design work and would end his career in September.

His mental and physical health were at an "extremely low ebb". "My memory has deteriorated to the point that when questions are put to me, I simply cannot recall.

"Further, I seize up when attempting to address questions and issues relating to the CTV building."

Harding offered his "heartfelt apologies" to the families who suffered "as a consequence of what I did do or what I should have done".

"My life also shall never be the same."

DUTY TO REVEAL CTV HISTORY

The hearing also heard that Harding had a duty to reveal his involvement in the failed CTV building when seeking re-registration as a professional engineer.

Peter McCoombs, of the Ipenz investigations committee, said Harding had "fallen short of his ethical responsibilities" by not disclosing his role in the building's design when he sought to have his competency reassessed in July 2011 - five months after the catastrophic collapse.

The onus was on Harding to make the facts known to the two assessors, who later approved the re-registration in December 2011.

Harding's lawyer Michael Kirkland questioned whether it was relevant, given that the cause of the collapse was not known in July 2011.

The royal commission findings, which said the building was non-compliant, were released until 18 months later.

Harding believed until that time that vertical acceleration from the quake was the cause of the collapse, Kirkland said.

LAWYER CALLS FOR HEARING TO BE DROPPED

Harding's lawyer earlier called for the hearing into his client's professional conduct to be abandoned.

Kirkland said in his opening submission today that Ipenz was acting outside its jurisdiction and the law by hearing the three complaints.

A later royal commission found the building was non-compliant and that Harding was working beyond his expertise.

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Kirkland said that under Ipenz rules complaints could be heard only about members.

Harding, who did not appear today, quit his Ipenz membership earlier this month.

The wording of the regulations meant his resignation was the "end of the road as a matter of law", Kirkland said.

"Mr Harding is not a member and, in my view, this [disciplinary committee] can not proceed."

Kirkland said Ipenz had been extremely helpful and sympathetic to his client.

Harding had until recently intended to appear at the hearing and to not resign from Ipenz, Kirkland said.

"He has taken advice and that is a decision he has made."

The hearing opened with a minute's silence to honour all of Christchurch's earthquake victims.

RESIGNATION COULD SHOW 'LACK OF INTEGRITY'

Complainant Tim Elms, whose daughter, Teresa, died in the CTV collapse, told the committee he was representing the families of 53 victims.

The Canterbury earthquakes royal commission found the CTV building was non-compliant and it was "quite clear" where accountability and blame should lie, he said.

The resignations from Ipenz of Harding and his former boss, Alan Reay, were "disappointing to say the least".

The move could be viewed as "a lack of integrity and ethical behaviour on behalf of a professional engineer", Elms said.

He believed the collapse could have been avoided if a 1990 report by Holmes Consulting, which warned of non-compliant elements, had been acted on.

"If someone had, 115 lives could have been saved," Elms said.

- The Press

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