Engineer has inspected 2000 homes

Graeme Robinson: "Working with the most distraught and most difficult cases."
Graeme Robinson: "Working with the most distraught and most difficult cases."

An Earthquake Commission (EQC) engineer at the centre of complaints to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc (Ipenz) has been named at a parliamentary select committee.

The finance and expenditure select committee met in Wellington yesterday to hear from various parties involved with the Christchurch rebuild.

Committee member Labour MP Lianne Dalziel asked EQC chief executive Ian Simpson and chairman Michael Wintringham about an EQC assessor who was the subject of a complaint by fellow MP Ruth Dyson.

Wintringham responded: "Is that the engineer? Graeme Robinson?"

Dyson has previously called for an independent inquiry into assessments performed by Robinson, who has in recent years done 2000 assessments in Christchurch for EQC, including over 1000 in the last year.

EQC maintains the engineer is brought in "when we need to know we have got everything exactly right from an engineering perspective".

At least 30 Christchurch homeowners have complained to EQC about Robinson, a Press investigation found.

Simpson has rejected the call for an inquiry, saying EQC is co-operating with Ipenz's inquiry.

Simpson told the committee he was aware of eight complaints about Robinson to Ipenz, which had decided, with EQC, that an independent engineer should be brought in to work through the cases.

Dalziel also queried Simpson about whether an internal review panel set up to investigate complaints about Robinson included an EQC manager who has worked alongside Robinson on some of the assessments now being reviewed.

"I did have the conversation with her [Dyson] around this," Simpson said.

"I wouldn't call it a review panel. I think in some early communications we've misnamed that.

"We've had some peer review done internally about the work that was being done. I wouldn't call that an internal review."

Wintringham then intervened to ask Simpson about the outcome of the internal review.

"I don't have a specific on that case," Simpson said.

"We'll always act on the best information we've got.

"We'll take the consumer's engineer's report and other reports that become available.

"When the new information comes up, we have changed our opinion and in many cases we are actually backing up that work that was done originally.

"There are some very difficult cases where it does make a big difference to the outcome of the house and in many cases there's already a dispute in place before the more senior members of the organisation go in to look at the example."

EQC customer services general manager Bruce Emson told the committee: "The individual you're talking about is, by self-selection, working with the most distraught and most difficult cases, the ones where we are in dispute, so inevitably they become difficult cases."

Robinson is an EQC contractor who works on a daily or weekly rate and is provided with an EQC vehicle, accommodation and airfares.

He has worked with EQC for 30 years and is regarded by the organisation as a world authority.

He is currently not working in the frontline and is training engineers for EQC.

The Press