14 Jul 2014

CTV designer's health 'in tatters'

9:00 pm on 14 July 2014

The only disciplinary hearing against anyone involved in the design and build of Christchurch's CTV building has been told that designer David Harding's career is all but over and his health is in tatters.

The Institution of Professional Engineers is investigating Mr Harding, who helped design the building which collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake, killing 115 people.

Rescue workers on the site of the collapsed CTV building.

Rescue workers on the site of the collapsed CTV building. Photo: AFP

Tim Elms, left, and Maan Alkaisi at the hearling on Monday.

Tim Elms, left, and Maan Alkaisi at the hearling on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Nicola Grigg

The hearing has come about as a result of complaints laid by various family members, represented by Tim Elms and Maan Alkaisi.

David Harding, 63, was excused from addressing the panel on Monday on the grounds of his failing health.

A report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Canterbury Earthquakes in 2012 found that the CTV building in central Christchurch had serious design and construction flaws, and Mr Harding was working "beyond his competence".

He was found to have been left largely unsupervised by principal Alan Reay, despite his limited experience designing multi-level buildings. Mr Harding quit IPENZ just days before this hearing.

In an affidavit read out to the hearing on Monday, his lawyer Michael Kirkland said Mr Harding's mental and physical health are at extremely low ebbs and he seizes up when attempting to address questions and issues relating to the CTV building.

Mr Harding said not a day goes by when he doesn't think of the building and the loss of life.

The panel was told that Mr Harding applied for a renewal of his chartered status in July 2011, but didn't tell his assessors of his involvement with the CTV building design.

IPENZ investigator Peter McComb said that by omitting this involvement, Mr Harding breached a professional code of conduct that says engineers must act with honesty, objectivity and integrity.

Mr McComb said the consequences of CTV's structural failure were so catastrophic that Mr Harding had duty to act with integrity and bring this issue to the notification of the professional body.

Families frustrated

A minute's silence for earthquake victims was held at the start of the hearing.

Tim Elms, whose daughter Teresa McLean was killed when the building collapsed, made a submission to the hearing on behalf of the other bereaved families.

Mr Elms spoke of his frustration that, although the Commission of Inquiry found the building's collapse was caused by non-compliant design, it didn't find any one person accountable. He said the resignations of Mr Harding and building engineer Alan Reay from IPENZ demonstrated a lack of integrity and ethical behaviour.

But David Harding's lawyer, Michael Kirkland, told the panel it was operating outside the law, because Mr Harding was no longer a member of IPENZ.

The institution's website says Mr Harding's resignation does not affect its jurisdiction over him as a chartered professional engineer, which he has been since 2006.

IPENZ said two hearings were scheduled for Monday. It said the first, relating to Mr Harding as a member of the institution, would not now be able to result in any order against him under its membership rules, but the other would not be so restricted.

"The second, in regard to his re-assessment for continued registration as a chartered professional engineer in 2011 is intended to proceed as planned, because it is unaffected by his membership status," the website states.

The panel retired on Monday to consider its verdict.