Sir Ralph Norris fronted some obvious questions about the tsunami of red ink due to Fletcher Construction's inept execution of contracts to build the International Convention Centre in Auckland and the Justice Precinct in Christchurch.

But citing client confidentiality (code in my view for the Government) he would not confirm outright that the Justice Precinct was one of the two projects which impacted on Fletcher Building's result.

He took responsibility for the board's role.

But at the same time, Sir Ralph played a dab hand shafting Mark Adamson for an inappropriate email the former CEO sent late last year indicating that was the final breakpoint in the board's relationship with the boss.


Sir Ralph softened the blow by suggesting Adamson was highly regarded - the highest ratings in the company - by other senior executives and that criticism of him was overstated.

Norris confessed that the directors had taken "an exhaustive approach" and that he personally felt more like an executive than a director, given "the amount of time I have spent in this business this year".

A cynic would say that's what a $400,000 plus chairman's fee entails.

But his suggestion that the impact of the tight construction market could not have been foreseen stretches credulity.

The Justice Precinct deal was announced in June 2014 - more than three years after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. It should have been obvious by then that it would have been foolhardy to proceed without an element of risk sharing.

That did not happen and the board should shoulder some responsibility for the overall framework.