16 Jul 2014

'Weeks' to go through building files

10:18 pm on 16 July 2014

It will take weeks to find out if the disgraced Invercargill engineer blamed for the Southland Stadium roof collapse has designed other dangerous buildings.

The Institution of Professional Engineers on Tuesday expelled Anthony Major for negligence in the design and sign-off of Stadium Southland, the roof of which collapsed in a snowstorm in September 2010.

Mr Major was responsible for the original design of the building, which had to be altered during its construction after the roof began to sag. He oversaw those changes and approved them.

The IPENZ inquiry also found Mr Major incompetent and potentially causing a loss of life. It warned that other buildings designed by him should be checked.

Invercargill City Council's chief executive Richard King told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday it is going to do that but it will take time.

"At the moment we have round about 7000 to 8000 building files, and it's a paper based system, so we're not able to do a computer search of all our files. At this stage, we don't know how many buildings may be affected."

Mr King said all work done by Mr Major since 2011 has been peer reviewed by a chartered engineer.

The council is aware that Mr Major may have been involved with buildings in other districts, including Gore, Queenstown Lakes and Southland, he said.

Queenstown council identifies two buildings

The Queenstown Lakes District Council said on Wednesday it has has identified two buildings that Anthony Major signed off.

Council chief executive Adam Feeley says one - a council building - is an older recreational structure, but has been peer reviewed and there are no safety concerns. The other is a commercial building.

Mr Feeley said on Wednesday that people should not assume there are safety concerns just because Mr Major was involved.

Engineer industry 'crisis ignored'

A structural engineer argues that singling out individual engineers for poor design misses the wider issue of an industry in crisis.

John Scarry said the industry's problems go well beyond Anthony Major and include an ongoing skills shortage and lack of technical competence.

Mr Scarry said that for years he and others had been pointing out serious problems to the institution and the Government, and to single out engineers now in a bid to get tough is a disgrace.

"The critical issue of technical competence, whether it be at the government oversight level or amongst engineers or amongst tradesmen, has not been dealt with and that is the ongoing problem."

But IPENZ chief executive Andrew Cleland told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday the institution's assessments are at international levels.

"All the evidence is that in fact we have very good quality people. When people put make claims they need to put up hard evidence and that hard evidence can then be looked at systematically."