Inquiry into Alan Reay dropped

DESIGN: Dr Alan Reay's firm designed the CTV building.
DESIGN: Dr Alan Reay's firm designed the CTV building.

The engineer whose firm designed the CTV building says "not a day goes by" when he does not think about the people killed in the February 2011 earthquake - prompting an angry response from victims' families.

Speaking publicly yesterday for the first time in 18 months, Alan Reay said he was committed to ensuring that every lesson was learnt from the earthquake on February 22. The CTV collapse killed 115 people.

Reay said he could not "undo the past".

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about the loss of life in the Christchurch earthquakes and the impact on grieving families . . .

"I have been and continue to be absolutely committed to ensuring that every possible lesson is learned from this tragedy," he said.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission found the CTV building did not meet construction standards.

Reay, whose firm designed the building, had challenged the right of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz) to investigate complaints made against him after the commission.

Ipenz dropped its investigation yesterday because of a "loophole" that allowed Reay to avoid its jurisdiction when he resigned from the voluntary body in February.

Families of the victims said yesterday that Reay's comments came too late. They were unhappy the Ipenz investigation had been abandoned.

Widower Mike Didham said Reay's comments were "a joke".

Didham felt the families had been cheated from knowing the truth because Reay had managed to "sidestep" the Ipenz investigation by resigning from the body.

"I'm really disappointed that he has pulled out. I find it more of a lack of confidence that he would be found innocent."

Tim Elms, who lost his daughter Teresa in the collapse, said justice was not being served.

"It's got the feel of Pike River about it," he said. "Nobody held to account."

He said there were "determined family members" who were looking at other means of obtaining accountability from the disaster.

In a statement, Reay was critical of the Ipenz investigation saying it was "unreasonable" and "unfair".

Reay said his resignation "had nothing to do" with ending the disciplinary processes against him.

"I was [and am] confident that my conduct at all times complied with my professional obligations, both as a member of Ipenz and as a chartered professional engineer," Reay said.

However, he said Ipenz had been "ineffectual in dealing with real issues that affect public safety since the earthquakes".

Ipenz was aware that the 34 per cent of the new building standard threshold set by the Government for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings was "unacceptably low" for many types of buildings, he said.

"Ipenz has failed to take steps to obtain Government action to properly address this issue."

He said Ipenz had acted in "unreasonable and unfair ways" towards him during the investigation and had not provided him with documents relevant to his case.

Reay said he no longer had confidence in Ipenz and resigned with "much regret".

He remains registered as a chartered professional engineer and said he continued to comply with "the ethical standards of engineering".

Kiwi families who lost loved ones in the CTV building sent Ipenz a letter asking how it could just drop the investigation into Reay after his resignation, widower Maan Alkaisi told The Press.

"We asked Ipenz what message it thought it was sending to engineers and other construction companies by doing this . . . all you need to do is resign," said Alkaisi, who lost his wife, Maysoon Abbas.

"He [Reay] was under investigation for such a serious national and international issue, yet he simply resigned and everything was dropped. No one is chasing him now."

Alkaisi said Reay was given a chance to "come clear and tell us why the building collapsed" in the royal commission of inquiry.

Yet, he chose to hire seven engineers and three lawyers to represent him and to "confuse the issue and deprive us from knowing the truth", Alkaisi said.

"We know he will use any loophole in the system."

The chief executive of Ipenz, Andrew Cleland, said legal advice found that it had "no jurisdiction" to continue the investigation despite putting many months into it. He would not comment on Reay's statement other than to say: "Our disciplinary process has been regarded by others as good practice and we have applied it correctly to the best of our best of our ability."

Cleland said the case highlighted the failure of successive governments to put in place an engineering licensing regime where one had to be a licensed engineer to practise.

Police made an announcement in February that engineering firm Beca had been engaged to review information on the collapse of the CTV building.

A police spokesman said their assessment of potential action over the case was continuing.

The Press