Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter

Families of CTV victims welcome apology

Emergency services search the rumble for survivors of the collapsed CTV building after the earthquake. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Emergency services search the rumble for survivors of the collapsed CTV building after the earthquake. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Families of CTV victims have welcomed yesterday's shock apology from the owner of the company which designed the ill-fated building.

And now they want other people involved in the design, construction, permit approval and inspections before it fell and claimed 115 lives in the February 22 quake to do the same.

"It's about time," said Brian Kennedy of Dr Alan Reay's apology at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the CTV collapse.

Mr Kennedy's wife Faye died in the disaster, and he is now spokesman for the victims' group, Quake Families.

Dr Reay has been repeatedly grilled by commission lawyers while giving evidence over the design of the six-storey Madras St office block, which was carried out by his company Alan Reay Consultants Ltd in 1986.

Yesterday (Tue), Dr Reay apologised to bereaved families for a building that "did not meet my standards."

"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."

Mr Kennedy told The Star he hoped Dr Reay's apology was "genuine".

"The sooner he puts his hand up, the easier it is for him, for me, and for everyone like me. There are a few others who have to do this sort of thing. Errors have been made and all we are asking for is for people to admit them," said Mr Kennedy.

"There was one engineer who inspected buildings after September (2010) who said he made a mistake, that he could have done better.

"He is the only one who can lie straight in bed at night. It's good to see that Dr Reay might be going down this road also."

Srecko 'Alec' Cvetanov, who spoke by cellphone to his wife Tamara in the CTV rubble before she died, told The Star: "It is good that someone has come out with an apology like this, although it will not bring our loved ones back.

"And I welcome some positive outcome from the royal commission, but my focus is not just the collapse.

"My wife was still alive for 12 hours from the quake and I believe there needs to be a royal commission of inquiry into the rescue efforts as well."

Counsel assisting the commission, Marcus Elliott acknowledged Dr Reay's apology, which he responded to by saying, "Thank you."

Mr Elliott said part of the families' 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.

Yesterday's evidence included that the city council had "tightened up" its building permit procedures and its engineers are much more meticulous since the mid-80s when the doomed CTV building was designed and built.

The commission has previously heard evidence that company principal 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.

Mark Zarifeh, counsel assisting the commission, asked the city 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 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."

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