Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

CTV collapse victims' loved ones crying out for justice

Inquiry fingers engineers, structural experts and council for tragedy that killed 115.

Families and friends of the 115 people killed in the February 2011 collapse of the Canterbury Television building are calling for legal action against those they feel are responsible.

Royal commission of inquiry findings, released yesterday, pointed to serious errors by engineers, structural designers and the Christchurch City Council.

The final part of the commission's report found that the six-storey office block was poorly designed by an unsupervised engineer who was ill-suited to the task, wrongfully signed off by the council under pressure from the principal engineer, and built with a number of defects.

After the first major earthquake in September 2010, it was "green-stickered" by council officials, with no expert advice from an engineer.

CTV receptionist Mary-Ann Jackson fled the collapsing building during the quake by sprinting out the front door, then turned around to see the building "completely down".

She felt three people were responsible for the death of 16 of her colleagues - principal engineer Alan Reay, construction manager Gerald Shirtcliff and property manager John Drew - and wanted them to face manslaughter charges.

"I want them thrown all in the same cell together," she said.

"I was brought up with the Ten Commandments - thou shalt not kill. I want justice and accountability for my good friends who died and for their families. I believe in a life for a life."

The commission found that Dr Reay hired an inexperienced engineer, David Harding, to design the building and did not review his plans. When the council expressed concerns during the consenting process, he convinced it that its concerns were "unfounded".

Yesterday, Dr Reay said it would be "premature" to respond to the commission's findings.

Mr Shirtcliff, revealed to be a convicted fraudster during the commission's hearings, was found to have poorly supervised the construction of the building.

Mr Drew commissioned an engineer's report after the September 2010 quake but did not follow up on the recommendation to order more detailed assessments.

The police will now consider whether criminal charges are appropriate, and the Institution of Professional Engineers will decide whether any members should be stripped of their registration.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will also consider legal action. "Everything about this building disturbs me," minister Maurice Williamson told Radio NZ yesterday.

He added: "It may be that putting it in the hands of police is the only avenue. But I want to be sure that we've exhausted all avenues of holding people to account."

Mr Williamson said he believed civil proceedings could be outside the statute of limitations because many of the faults that led to the CTV collapse occurred 26 years ago.

Mayor Bob Parker emphasised that the council's errors were historical.

But the commission also pointed to council faults after the September quake. Three city staff gave the building a green sticker without the support of an engineer - a requirement for the kind of rapid assessment they were performing.

Mayor Parker said the stickers were a guide, not a definitive ruling on the safety of a building, and it was the responsibility of property owners to seek independent assessment. He wanted the stickering system to be reviewed.

Asked whether he would consider resigning over the errors made under his watch, Mr Parker said: "Clearly, if there was some culpability on my watch, then that might be a course that I'd have to examine."

But he did not believe it was appropriate because the original consent for the building was given by a different council, and he was not responsible for the efficacy of the stickering system.

The mayor said had not read the report, but did not expect the council to face legal action.

The ministry is also focused on ensuring that buildings that have the design flaws of the CTV building are inspected. An investigation found 379 other buildings in New Zealand which, like the CTV building, have non-ductile columns.

Mr Williamson said these buildings were being inspected but were not believed to be risky.

Why did the Canterbury Television building collapse?

Design
The engineer hired to design the building in 1986, David Harding, was "working beyond his competence". He had not designed a complex multi-storey structure before, and was inexperienced in the use of a computer modelling program relied on for the design. Principal engineer Alan Reay did not provide adequate supervision or review his work, so many of the building's features were non-compliant.

Consent
The building was not built to the standards of the time but was given consent by the Christchurch City Council. Council buildings engineer Graeme Tapper held concerns about its defects but was "convinced" by Dr Reay, who knew little about the design, that his concerns were unfounded.

Construction
After the building collapsed, a number of construction defects were found. The foreman of the construction job was found to be competent, but his construction manager, Gerald Shirtcliff, did not carry out proper or regular inspections at the site. At one point, the project was not supervised for five months.

Remedial work
Structural weaknesses in the building were identified during its sale in 1991, but the remedies did not improve its ability to withstand seismic activity.

Post-quake assessment
After the first major quake in September 2010, the building was "green-stickered" by a rapid assessment team and later by three council building officials, without the help of an engineer. Property manager John Drew ordered a private assessment by an engineer, but did not follow the engineer's recommendations for further assessment.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 20 Apr 2014 06:13:54 Processing Time: 519ms