11 Aug 2015

Shock at decison to overturn EQC engineer's suspension

9:11 am on 11 August 2015

Organisations that support homeowners in Christchurch struggling with earthquake damage are shocked complaints about a government engineer have been quashed.

Earthquake-damaged home in Sumner, Christchurch.

Earthquake-damaged home in Sumner, Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Chartered Professional Engineers Council has dismissed complaints about the work of Graeme Robinson, who has worked for the Earthquake Commission (EQC) since the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

The complaints included claims of negligence and incompetence, and that Mr Robinson adopted an aggressive and bullying approach when assessing earthquake damage.

A spokesperson for Rebuild Christchurch, Deon Swiggs, said he was shocked a decision by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) to strike Mr Robinson off the register had been overturned by the council.

Mr Robinson had appealed against a three-year suspension originally imposed by IPENZ.

Mr Swiggs said the decision had raised the questions.

"I just don't understand why a government-appointed body has over-ruled the professional body and not taken the time to talk to them and actually come up with a solution that has the home owners who made the complaints in the first place at heart."

Mr Swiggs said the decision discredits the original complaints laid against Mr Robinson.

Deon Swiggs.

Deon Swiggs. Photo: DEON SWIGGS

"There's this whole attitude at the top, it seems, that there is only a few home owners and they dont matter, over the big scheme of everything.

"It seems it is all about making the recovery look good for the Government."

Canterbury Communities' Earthquake Recovery Network (CANCERN) spokesperson, Leanne Curtis said the decision did not give confidence that there were open, transparent and fair systems in place.

"You can get a lot of complaints about people, the issue with Mr Robinson is the consistency in which people complained.

"It was completely sub-standard for him to lay beside a house and look under it and declare there is no foundation damage."

Ms Curtis said IPENZ should question its role if the government-appointed council can overturn its decisions.

"In trusting the professionals you are also expecting the bodies behind them are keeping them accountable and making sure they are trained and working along guidelines and the systems that are in place; this decision makes a mockery of that."

IPENZ chief executive Susan Freeman Green said the institution was reviewing its complaints and disciplinary procedures.

"We are disappointed by the decision. We have thought about appealing, but we know if we went through ongoing legal processes we could not guarantee a win so we need to focus on the future."

The EQC declined to be interviewed about Mr Robinson and the complaints laid against him.

But a statement from EQC's chief executive Ian Simpson said the Chartered Professional Engineers Council had found Mr Robinson was an expert in assessing quake damage.

However, Mr Simpson said he accepted the original complainants were upset by the assessment process and the Commission apologised for any distress they felt.

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