Engineer questioned over PGC building checks

6:19 pm on 30 November 2011

An engineer who approved the Pyne Gould building for use three times after the September 2010 earthquake in Christchurch has been questioned over whether it was ethically right to tell people the building was safe to use.

Engineer Mark Whiteside told the Royal Commission investigating the Canterbury quakes he carried out three checks on the building and each time found it was safe for use.

He said he was carrying out a level two assessment, which did not involve any invasive investigations or reference to building or structural plans.

Mr Whiteside said the last two inspections, in October 2010 and January 2011, were in response to concerns from tenants about the building.

He said, on each occasion, he found there was new damage, but that the building was safe to occupy.

He said he was primarily looking to see if the building's future performance in aftershocks would be diminished, and found it would not be.

The lawyer for the families of those who died when the building collapsed, Marcus Elliot, questioned whether Mr Whiteside had an ethical obligation to look in more depth at the building's background.

Mr Whiteside said he was looking at whether the building had been weakened by the quake, not at how strong it was beforehand.

The Royal Commission latest hearings involve the PGC building, which collapsed in the February earthquake with the loss of 18 lives.