Council prepared for legal action after CTV report

10:12 pm on 11 December 2012

The Christchurch City Council says it is prepared for legal action to be taken against it in light of the findings of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of the CTV building in the February 2011 earthquake.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission released an 1100-page report on Monday, with the results of the investigation into the collapse of the central-city CTV building in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011.

Of the 185 people who died in the February earthquake, 115 died as a result of the collapse of the multi-storey office block.

The mayor, Bob Parker, has fully accepted responsibility for the mistakes made by the council of the day when the consent was issued, and he agreed with the Prime Minster that those responsible need to be held accountable.

Mr Parker says although the permit was issued by the city council in 1986, the current council accepts criticism on its behalf and takes full responsibility for its actions. He says modern-day auditing processes will ensure the shortcomings identified will never occur again.

Prime Minister John Key says it is up to police and the courts to decide whether criminal charges will be laid over the collapse of the CTV building in Christchurch.

The commission found the building's design was deficient in a number of respects and should never have been issued with a building permit in 1986.

It found that Alan Reay, the head of the company that designed the building, put a structural engineer in charge of the project who was working beyond his competence. The inquiry heard that Dr Reay intervened to put pressure on Christchurch City Council to approve a building permit.

Mr Key said the aim of the Royal Commission was not to apportion blame, and it is now up to the authorities to decide whether charges should be laid.

Report angers Chinese families

The Chinese Consulate says the families of 24 Chinese students killed in the collapse of the CTV building are angry now they know human error was behind the tragedy.

A spokesperson for the consulate in Christchurch says the victim's families had suspected human error was behind the collapse and want those responsible prosecuted.

He says the families also think they should get extra compensation because China's one-child policy means they have lost not only a loved one, but a major source of income after their retirement.

Institution reviews membership

The Institution of Professional Engineers says Alan Reay's membership is under review.

Chief executive Dr Andrew Cleland said there is no regulatory regime for engineers still in place that was applicable in 1986, so the only jurisdiction is membership of the professional body by individuals concerned.

Ron Godkin was working for Kings Education on the fourth floor of the CTV building when the earthquake struck. He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that engineers and others involved in the building's failure need to be held to account.

He said they should have to prove themselves before they can work in the field again, and that may involve them being retrained.

Building consent

The commission is recommending improvements to the building consent process, including creating a new category of engineer who would be responsible for certifying the design of complex structures.

It pointed out that the CTV structure was given a green sticker after the September 2010 earthquake without being inspected by an engineer.

Overall, the commission said building safety evaluations were well delivered after the quakes, but it is recommending a number of changes to the process. That includes establishing a core team of building safety evaluators who could be called on after a disaster.

The Government's response to the report is due next year.