CTV building: A tale of missed chances

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

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OPINION: The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission did not set out to apportion blame for the Canterbury Television building collapse, but several key parties will be uneasy at its findings.

The commissioners pointed to errors and problems over many decades which contributed to a under-engineered building and flawed structure.

The building collapsed when the magnitude-6.3 quake hit on February 22, 2011. It was a failure that caused the deaths of 115 people.

It started with the design of the building and supervision of a relatively inexperienced structural engineer.

Further, the building should not have been issued a permit but pressure allegedly applied to consenting staff in the Christchurch City Council meant concerns raised were apparently ignored.

The design flaws were missed by those building the CTV structure, and added to some non-conforming construction practices not picked up by the absentee construction manager, fake engineer Gerald Shirtcliff.

That alone makes for "grim and sobering reading", as Prime Minister John Key labelled yesterday's report, but the most frustrating part was yet to come.

In 1990, an engineer noticed the floors were not properly connected to the support walls. Here was something structurally wrong. The strengthening work was carried out in November 1991, nearly two years after the weakness was found, but not enough was done.

The commissioners noted an opportunity lost: "It should have been apparent . . . that the report was not a full review of the structural integrity of the building."

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission report, which is the result of an eight-week hearing by the commissioners, will be difficult reading for the families of those who died.

It exposes just how many times something could have been done to prevent the collapse.

Every section throws up another opportunity lost.

If just one had played out differently, the building and everyone in it may have been handed a different fate. This was the perfect storm, and the results were horrifying.

Michael Wright was among a team of Press reporters assigned to cover the CTV building collapse and subsequent royal commission inquiry.

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