Engineering NZ reopens Alan Reay Christchurch CTV building accountability case

Engineering New Zealand says it will reopen a disciplinary case into Alan Reay, whose consultancy firm managed the construction of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building in Christchurch that collapsed in the 2011 earthquake. 

The Attorney-General asked the High Court to review the decision to dismiss professional disciplinary proceedings against Dr Reay, after the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand - now known as Engineering NZ - dismissed a disciplinary complaint against him. 

Dr Reay resigned from Engineering NZ before its disciplinary processes could be completed, a court document shows. Engineering NZ proceeded on the basis that Dr Reay's resignation left it with no option other than to dismiss the complaint.

But Justice David Collins said on Friday the Attorney-General "does have standing to seek judicial review", and that Engineering NZ made an error when it dismissed the complaint against Dr Reay.

He said it will be for Engineering NZ to decide if the complaint against Dr Reay proceeds to a disciplinary hearing. 

Engineering New Zealand said it will reopen an investigation into the complaints against Dr Reay, with chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene saying the organisation appreciates the court's direction "that our decision was wrong". 

Justice Collins has ordered Dr Reay to pay the Attorney-General's costs in taking the case.

The collapse of the six-storey Canterbury Television building killed 115 people.
The collapse of the six-storey Canterbury Television building killed 115 people. Photo credit: Reuters

Two complaints were made to Engineering NZ against Dr Reay about his role in the collapse of the CTV building. The first was made in October 2012 by Tim Elms, whose daughter was killed when the CTV building collapsed. 

The second complaint was lodged in December 2012 by Michael Stannard, who at the time was the chief engineer at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The latest proceeding has been lodged by Mr Stannard. 

The collapse of the six-storey CTV building killed 115 people. The building was designed in 1986 by Alan Reay Consultants, founded by Dr Reay, a structural engineer with a PhD in civil engineering. 

In 2012, a royal commission of inquiry into a number of aspects of the Canterbury earthquakes found there were significant defects in the structural design of the CTV Building.

It also highlighted that Dr Reay was at fault in giving responsibility to David Harding to design the building, claiming Mr Harding was working beyond his competence and made several fundamental errors.

Engineering NZ had considered laying a complaint against Dr Reay - who later resigned his membership from the group - but dropped the investigation in 2014 after taking legal advice.

In 2015, the National-led Government filed for a judicial review of that decision by Engineering NZ, arguing the body's investigating committee had misinterpreted the organisation's rules.