Wellington City Council cleared to pursue engineers for money if successfully sued in failed building case

The building was irreparably damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura quake.
The building was irreparably damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura quake. Photo credit: Phil Pennington via RNZ

The High Court in Wellington has cleared the way for Wellington City Council to pursue an engineering firm for money if it is successfully sued by the Bank of New Zealand over a failed building.

The bank is suing the council for more than $101 million over its waterfront building that was irreparably damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura quake.

In its statement of claim filed in August 2019, BNZ is seeking damages of "no less than $101,243,345".

It argues the council was negligent in granting the building consent and in its inspection of the building work and in issuing a code of compliance certificate.

RNZ has previously revealed the council went against engineering advice when it approved the building on Waterloo Quay.

The veteran structural engineering company Spencer Holmes pulled out of reviewing the building in 2007 after butting heads with the engineers, Beca, that designed the building about critical structural questions affecting the floors, walls and frame.

The council's chief executive, Barbara McKerrow, said the council does not believe it has any liability but, if the court finds it does, it wants the building's engineers and the engineering professor who reviewed it to pay too.

Beca had attempted to strike out the council's claim against it, as it fell outside the 10-year limitation on liability in the Building Act.

However, the court has ruled the limitation does not apply in cases of joint liability.

Both Beca and BNZ declined to comment, as the matter is still before the courts.