Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

CTV designer apologises to families

Alan Reay, of Christchurch company Alan Reay Consultants Ltd, has apologised to the families of the 115 victims who died in the CTV building collapse. Photo / NZ Herald
Alan Reay, of Christchurch company Alan Reay Consultants Ltd, has apologised to the families of the 115 victims who died in the CTV building collapse. Photo / NZ Herald

The principal of the design firm responsible for the CTV Building, which collapsed and killed 115 people on February 22 last year, today apologised to bereaved families for a building that "did not meet my standards."

Alan Reay, of Christchurch structural design company Alan Reay Consultants Ltd, made the shock admission at the royal commission of inquiry hearing into the building's collapse.

"This is a terrible tragedy and I really feel for those who have lost their loved ones," he said.

"To the extent I can, I've tried to provide the commission assistance to understand the cause of this tragedy.

"I've spent my life working in engineering and have always tried to maintain the highest standards of the profession.

"I apologise to all the families affected, as this building did not meet my standards."

Dr Reay, who has now taken the stand several times, last week admitted he had not read all of the evidence before the hearing.

Marcus Elliott, counsel assisting the commission, said that admission had offended the bereaved families, and asked him to go away and read the evidence, and come back with a response to them.

Mr Elliott today acknowledged Dr Reay's apology, to which he responded by saying, "Thank you."

The lawyer said part of the family's points of interest was that "we learn from what has happened" and he asked Dr Reay to return to the commission at a later date with a list of ways the building did not meet his standards.

"I certainly will do my best," Dr Reay said.

Commission lawyer Mark Zarifeh quizzed Dr Reay over what he meant when he said the building did not meet his standards when he has previously stated he had "very little to do with the CTV Building".

Mr Zarifeh asked if his "standards" meant code compliance.

"I'm talking about my standards," Dr Reay said flatly.

"I'm not necessarily talking about code compliance - the building could well have been code compliant, or it may have had some elements that aren't.

"I am uncertain as to the degree or the effect of the non-compliance."

Dr Reay has repeatedly said the "sole responsibility" for the design lay with his structural engineer, David Harding, who was inexperienced in building multi-storey structures.

Mr Zarifeh asked Dr Reay that if it didn't meet his own standards, and it wasn't his own fault, then it must have been Mr Harding's fault.

"I've said already that ... if Mr Harding has made an error, that ultimately it is the responsibility of my company."

Earlier today, it was revealed that Christchurch City Council has "tightened up" its building permit procedures and its engineers are much more meticulous since the mid-80s when the ill-fated CTV building was designed and built.

The commission has previously heard evidence that Dr Reay ignored concerns from a city council engineer, and went straight to his boss to assure him the design was acceptable.

The building permit was then signed off, but Dr Reay has vigorously denied "going over the head" of council engineers.

Mr Zarifeh asked the council's resource consents and building policy manager Steve McCarthy if that same scenario could still occur in today's environment.

"It's very unusual for an engineering company to come straight to the manager," Mr McCarthy said.

He said the council is now dependant on meticulous documentation from companies.

"The whole industry has tightened up," he said.

"Certainly, the engineers are much more meticulous and professional in their approach, in terms of the documentation they provide to the council, and indeed, our decision-making has tightened up as well."

The hearing, which is now in its seventh week, continues tomorrow.

- APNZ

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