6 Sep 2020

Christchurch CBD quake-prone office block: No action in nine months

4:54 pm on 6 September 2020

Christchurch City Council has taken no action against the engineers of an office block in a city-centre mall constructed with multiple earthquake design defects.

Building at 230 High Street, Christchurch. Photo:

Nine months since a final ruling confirmed serious faults at the eight-storey block at 230 High Street, little has been done.

The council said the building owner was getting an engineering assessment done.

"We expect the owner's engineer's report will consider a range of options, and also expect to be provided with a copy of the report shortly."

Owner Soung Joon Kim has not responded to RNZ's questions.

It was up to him whether to demolish it or not, the council said.

Kim told RNZ in late 2019 it was urgent to address the problem in the interests of public safety.

The council has not lodged any complaint against the designers or peer reviewers with Engineering New Zealand.

There was "more benefit" in finalising what would happen to the building, than going to ENZ, the council told RNZ.

The same question, over not complaining to ENZ, could be asked of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, it said. RNZ is asking that of MBIE.

The council has not considered or embarked on any action to recover ratepayers' money spent challenging the building's design.

The challenges and counter-challenges by various engineers went on for two years.

"It is important to remember that while MBIE determined that parts of the building did not comply with the Building Code, it did not determine or indicate that the building was dangerous or earthquake-prone," the council said.

As for preventing this happening again, the same system for checking buildings remained largely in place, it said: that is, a structural engineer's design is reviewed by another engineer who the first engineer engages and pays for; and the design, if approved, goes to the council to largely rubberstamp the technical details of.

This system of relying on what are called Producer Statements - which have no standing in law - has failed in high-profile cases:

In the fallout from 230 High St, the Christchurch council has reviewed and refined some producer statement procedures, and had talks with Engineering NZ about producer statements.

"However, the fundamental approach of accepting design producer statements (PS1) and peer review producer statements (PS2) authored by Chartered Professional Engineers remains in place here as it does in every other local authority in New Zealand," it told RNZ.

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