18 Jun 2011

Engineer says drain should have been fixed

1:15 pm on 18 June 2011

A council drainage engineer has expressed regret at not fixing a drain that led to the death of a toddler.

Aisling Symes went missing in West Auckland in October 2009, and was initially feared abducted.

The two-year-old's body was found in a drain a week after she went missing. Police have told the inquest that she probably stood on a partly open manhole lid that flipped over and she fell in.

A stormwater engineer for the former Waitakere City Council, Stephen Challis, told an inquest into her death that council safety processes were inadequate.

Mr Challis said he inspected the drain less than a month before she went missing, after problems were reported.

He said the drain was known to flood, dislodging the manhole cover, and had been flushed three times since 2004. It was regarded as a problem as far back as 2007 and should have been fixed.

Mr Challis told the coroner that safety wire grilles should be installed under all manhole covers.

However, an Auckland Council drainage manager, John Dragicevich, said there were well over 100,000 manholes in Auckland, and it would cost $70 million to fit all of them with safety grilles.

Mr Dragicevich said the council had identified 283 problem manholes and was in the process of making them safer.

The council says it has introduced policies that prioritise fixing dislodged manholes.

The coroner on Friday reserved his findings.