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More than 160 hospital inspections

Masterton District Council [MDC] staff visited the Wairarapa Hospital construction site to do inspections more than 160 times, Wellington High Court heard this week.

The statement was made by MDC counsel Christine Meechan KC in closing arguments in the case Te Whatu Ora has brought against the council.

Te Whatu Ora [formerly Wairarapa DHB] is claiming almost $90 million in damages, plus interest and costs from MDC to remedy defects in the hospital building.

MDC has denied liability and has defended the claim on a wide range of grounds, with the council’s legal team summing up its case on Monday [28 August].

The Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that the process MDC used to inspect the building and issue a Code of Compliance certificate [CCC] was deficient in a number of respects.

MDC, for its part, disputes a CCC was ever issued and has robustly defended its relevant inspection and other related processes.

Meechan referred to the evidence in this regard of Robert Tidd, a building regulator, called as an expert witness by Te Whatu Ora.

“In my submission, there are a number of unsatisfactory aspects to Mr Tidd’s evidence, which of course, supports both the primary claim and the loss of a chance claim,” she said.

“Critically in my submission, your Honour, Mr Tidd has not provided the Court with clear evidence as to what an inspector’s eye-view would have been at the point of final inspection. Which appears to be the point at which Mr Tidd says certain structural defects should have been picked up.”

Meechan submitted Tidd’s visit to the Hospital site did not in any way approximate the type of inspection a council officer would undertake. He had visited the site with Michelle Grant, also an expert witness for Te Whatu Ora, who had pointed out to him what she had identified as structural issues with the building.

“As Mr Tierney [an MDC expert witness] told your Honour, a council officer does not go to a site with a mindset that defects exist or that they are looking at structural design issues
at this final inspection stage.”

Meechan said the usual inspecting process was progressive and took place over many visits.

“The evidence is very clear that a final inspection is not a redoing of what is done.

“You are checking off the finishing items: are the fire alarms working, are the sprinkler systems connected to the switchboard, are the building control systems working, are the wheelchair access points clearly marked? You are not going back and redoing the months of work that have gone before.

“That is very firmly a position that MDC takes.”

In response to a question from Judge Cull, Meechan said that MDC had done 166 inspections.

“They went to site 166 times. The inspectors might look at stage one, stage two, stage three depending on which stage the building was up to.”

The month-long hearing concluded on Tuesday with judgment reserved. In lengthy hearings, judgments can typically be expected to take some months.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZOnAir

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