A Disciplinary Committee has upheld two complaints relating to six Masterton building designs deemed inadequate.

Engineer Kevin O’Connor has been censured and fined, for negligence relating to his involvement in signing PS1 producer statements for five Masterton buildings found to be inadequate. Another engineer has been fined for his involvement in signing off a sixth design which was also found to be inadequate.

A Disciplinary Committee found Mr O’Connor’s review of the designs before signing PS1s were high-level and often relied on reviews carried out by other engineers. The Committee said there was no evidence Mr O’Connor was justified in signing the PS1s and was concerned there was a “pattern of behaviour over a sustained period”.

PS1s indicate to building consenting authorities that certain design work complies with the Building Code and other relevant standards.

In an agreed statement of facts, Mr O’Connor accepted the designs were inadequate and not in accordance with the standards reasonably expected of a Chartered Professional Engineer.

Concerns about the Masterton buildings were first brought to Engineering New Zealand’s attention in 2015. At the time, Engineering New Zealand notified the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as the regulatory authority. A review commissioned by MBIE and Masterton Trust Lands Trust – which owns the buildings – found structural deficiencies in the six buildings. Engineering New Zealand also commissioned an own-motion inquiry to determine whether any engineers involved met grounds for disciplinary action.

The release of the Disciplinary Committee’s decisions concludes the inquiry. Engineering New Zealand Chief Executive Richard Templer says, “This inquiry was involved and complex, requiring six Investigating Committee reports, expert advice and two final Disciplinary Committee decisions.”

Disciplinary decisions about Chartered Professional Engineers are made by independent Disciplinary Committees comprising three senior engineers, a lawyer, and a consumer representative, following formal investigations.

Engineering New Zealand’s Disciplinary Committee has now ordered Mr O’Connor be censured and pay a fine and costs totalling $38,500 (plus GST). Although their decisions were made in June, Mr O’Connor has received name suppression while court proceedings resolved.

The Disciplinary Committee said the engineer responsible for the sixth design also “performed engineering services in a negligent manner”. However, the matter appeared to be an isolated incident. The engineer was ordered to pay a fine and costs totalling $8,500 (plus GST).

Templer says, “Engineers are central in the design of buildings. Now that the Masterton cases have closed, we are working with the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand and others on a report identifying the main causes of structurally deficient buildings. This report will inform the profession of causes and make recommendations for quality improvements using the findings from our inquiry.”

Engineering New Zealand is also making changes to its accreditation scheme for Chartered Professional Engineers, including stronger assessment criteria and discipline-specific assessment for high-risk sub-disciplines such as structural engineering.

Templer says, “The Masterton buildings weren’t up to scratch and failures such as those observed in these buildings are unacceptable.

“Engineering New Zealand needs to do what it can to make sure engineers take all necessary steps to provide buildings and structures that are fit for purpose.”

Read the full decisions for Kevin O’Connor

Read a Summary of Decision relating to the sixth design

Notes to reporters

Engineering New Zealand is New Zealand's professional body for engineers, with some 22,000 members. We represent – and regulate – our members. We also act as the Registration Authority for Chartered Professional Engineers.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Lachlan McKenzie on 021 479 885.