Editorial: Wrong on so many levels

Last updated 11:03 12/05/2012

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OPINION: Ruinous remedial work and a gaspingly comprehensive catalogue of failures have been identified in the latest report to sift through the wreckage of the collapsed Stadium Southland.

A blizzard of court actions is liable to follow the findings of the Building and Housing Department investigation, which emphatically identified substandard work.

From design problems to god-awful trades work and inadequate supervision, the impression is of not much, at all, going right.

When the roof was found to be sagging, attempts to correct it, including a reinforcing beam that was effectively cut in half, weakening rather than strengthening the structure, were not only botched but were undetected.

It speaks volumes that the findings have been referred not only to the Labour Department, but the police.

Insurer NZI has already issued court proceedings to protect its right to sue the council and a stadium engineer.

As the climate of reproach and recrimination all-but-inevitably turns litigious, to an extent liable to grind on for years, it is difficult, but necessary, to keep looking forward.

A new stadium is under construction, and many will be alarmed that people, companies and institutions involved in the first, inglorious project, are still at work on its replacement.

Here, at least, it is all the more plain why the stadium trust is taking such an incredibly cautious belt-and-braces approach to the new stadium.

Every centimetre of this new building is rightly being tested against an acutely vivid sense of what can go wrong. A sense, perhaps, of penitent protectionism.

So it should be. And much though we may yearn for the restoration, the public seems to be accepting that we must wait our patience.

But the lessons simply cannot be so localised that they apply only to this project.

The recommendations from the department's investigation need to be impelled into effect across the nation.

Many of the recommendations speak of confronting the burdens of coastal snow much more directly.

Surely, though, it is not simply the wisdom of hindsight which suggests that recommendations along the lines of "structural engineers be required to identify on the drawings collapse-critical components of important roof structures subject to snow loading" should have occurred to somebody sooner than this.

It's true that the snowfall under which our jerrybuilt stadium collapsed was the particularly heavy-and-wet coastal snow, much more challenging than the more powdery inland norm. But come on – we're primarily a coastal nation. Clearly building regulations haven't taken this seriously enough.

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Even so, let's not forget, for even an instant, that a stadium this poorly built was liable to succumb, at some stage, to some significant event, whether it was snow or not.

- The Southland Times

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