18 May 2017

MBIE drags heels on steel testing

8:51 am on 18 May 2017

Officials are still undecided over mandatory independent testing for steel, more than a year after the government ordered them to look into it.

Steel rods or bars used to reinforce concrete (stock photo).

The Transport Agency is strengthening its regime for steel testing. Photo: 123RF

Building Minister Nick Smith last year ordered the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to investigate bringing in testing by accredited labs of all critical building products, not just steel.

But the ministry said yesterday that work on the issue was still "ongoing".

"We can't give a timeframe on when the review will be complete and any changes, if necessary, will be made," the ministry said.

Heavy Engineering Research Association spokesman Stephen Hicks said recent talks with the ministry indicated it was still considering mandatory independent testing.

All 600 of his association's members have already unanimously told the government that was what they wanted.

Dr Hicks said quality controls were improving but the country had a long way to go to match Europe, where chief executives can be jailed over defective building products.

Yesterday the Transport Agency said it had begun strengthening its own regime for steel testing, a year after RNZ revealed weak steel had bedevilled bridges being built on the new Waikato Expressway.

It would carry out random testing on steel that does not come from an accredited supplier or has unverified test certificates.

The agency said there had been "inconsistencies" in its previous approach.

Among other advances, seismic reinforcing mesh is now much more closely tested, after revelations that for four years testing had been flawed.

Auckland Council was now also imposing rigorous controls on steel, including on big projects like the Alexandra Park Apartments.

Stephen Hicks said there was industry buy-in for a new standard control over steel fabrication and installation.

Australia already used the standard, with some states now making it compulsory to follow it.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs