10 Feb 2021
When the CTV Building collapsed during the earthquake on 22 February 2011, 115 lives were lost. This tragedy, and its engineering failures, has cast a long shadow.
The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission, which publicly released its findings in December 2012, concluded that building designer David Harding of Alan Reay Consultants was working beyond his competence in designing the building.
IPENZ (as Engineering New Zealand was then known) received two complaints against Mr Harding, from MBIE’s Chief Engineer and a group of victims’ families. Our Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Harding had breached the 1986 IPENZ Code of Ethics. By signing and submitting design documentation for the CTV building to the Christchurch City Council, Mr Harding effectively misrepresented his competence, the Disciplinary Committee found. It said that as a professional engineer, he should have taken steps to make sure his design was properly reviewed.
The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission was also critical of the role played by Alan Reay, the principal of the firm employing Mr Harding.
Engineering New Zealand is currently investigating a complaint against Dr Reay. This complaint was originally made by MBIE’s Chief Engineer in 2012, and was reopened in 2019.
When the CTV building was designed and constructed, Dr Reay was an IPENZ Member but not a Chartered Professional Engineer (because a different registration regime, since repealed, was in place at that time). This meant IPENZ could only consider this complaint under the rules and regulations that applied to members. When Dr Reay resigned his membership in February 2014, before the complaints process was complete, this process was stopped.
In March 2015, the Government sought a judicial review of that decision to stop the complaints process. In October 2019, the Court of Appeal upheld a previous decision by the High Court that Engineering New Zealand (as IPENZ was now known) did have jurisdiction. Engineering New Zealand chose to reopen the complaint, with then-Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene saying, “we appreciate the Court’s direction that our decision was wrong. We welcome the clarity the judge has provided”.
The investigation into the complaint about Dr Reay is currently at the Investigating Committee stage. The role of the Investigating Committee is to gather evidence and determine whether there’s a matter to answer. If the Investigating Committee decides there is, it refers the case to a Disciplinary Committee for a hearing. While Engineering New Zealand would like to conclude this process as quickly as possible, it’s important that it is fair and robust.