'No power' to punish CTV designers

TRACY WATKINS AND MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 18:07 26/03/2013
CTV tragic aftermath

TRAGIC AFTERMATH: The huge rescue effort at the CTV building.

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Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson may pursue a law change allowing corporate manslaughter charges in cases like the Canterbury Television building collapse.

Williamson hit out today at the inability of professional engineering bodies to act against members who were involved in the building's construction.

"It has to be ... that someone is held to account," he said.

"I've said all along I don't believe 115 people can lose their life in a building that pancakes, that should never have been built, that should never have been consented and there is no-one held to account."

Police could still lay charges after an investigation following the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission findings of design and construction deficiencies in the CTV building, which collapsed in the February 22 earthquake, killing 115 people.

Williamson said gaps in the law were a concern.

"I would have thought something  that gives [authorities] the power to instigate something like criminal manslaughter, to corporate manslaughter. That's happened before with a number of small incidents, like cool-store fires and other things, so I wouldn't rule out giving them some of those powers. "

Those powers would not be retrospective, so it would not help in the case of the CTV collapse, he said.

But it would be "just ghastly" to move on without anyone being held to account.

"You walk down a 737 aisle in the morning and see 115 people sitting there and you think, 'Wow','' he said.

''And that's how many people died ... That building was built illegally, it didn't meet all the specs of the day, it didn't meet code."

No power to take action

The body governing New Zealand engineers says it has no power to take action against the designers of the flawed building.

The Canterbury earthquakes royal commission concluded that the CTV building, which collapsed during the February 2011 earthquake, had serious deficiencies in its design and construction.

It found Alan Reay, principal of Alan Reay Consultants, should have recognised his employee, David Harding, was working beyond his limits when designing the multi-storey building in 1986.

Williamson said police action was the only available option after the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) and the Chartered Professional Engineers Council said they could not act.

IPENZ's power to sanction was like a ''slap with a wet bus ticket'', he said.

However, IPENZ chief executive Andrew Cleland said no regulatory powers were available for engineering activities before to the introduction of the Chartered Professional Engineers Act in 2002.

The Department of Building and Housing was made aware of this last March, he said.

IPENZ was reviewing its code of ethics, including clarifying the duty of engineers to protect life, and the extent to which they were obliged to report any substandard work they observe, Cleland said.

''As the profession undergoes public scrutiny, it is timely to review our code and look to see how we can improve on it," he said.

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- The Press

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