The trust is seeking to recover the costs involved with remediating structural shortcomings of two of its buildings that have been found not to meet the seismic design standard for new buildings. PHOTO/PEXELS

MARCUS ANSELM

marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

The fallout from the discovery of structural engineering problems in six Masterton buildings continues three years on.

This week’s Radio New Zealand report into buildings in neighbouring Palmerston North put the spotlight back on the High Court legal action launched by the Masterton Trust Lands Trust in 2016.

The Radio New Zealand report said Palmerston North City Council had been looking for two years into work done by Kevin O’Connor and Associates [KOA], the same structural design company that Masterton Trust Lands Trust is taking to court.

The Palmerston North City Council took a random sample comprising a dozen KOA-designed buildings in Palmerston North, all less than 15 years old.

It has found eight of them had multiple problems, including serious deficiencies, such as concrete panels, steel beams and columns that are too small or otherwise deficient.

In 2016, concerns were raised to Engineering New Zealand [ENZ], formerly known as the Institute of Engineering Professionals, about buildings in Masterton where six newly-built trust-owned business buildings had failed to reach earthquake safety standards.

That year, Masterton Trust Lands Trust filed its case against KOA, Masterton District Council [MDC] as the consenting authority, and the council’s peer reviewer Spencer Holmes Limited.

This case is expected to enter into mediation next year.

The trust is seeking to recover the costs involved with remediating structural shortcomings of two of its buildings that have been found not to meet the seismic design standard for new buildings.

The claim is for the estimated costs of remediating the trust’s buildings at 61 and 73 Dixon St, being McKenzies Carpet Court and Beaurepaires.

The buildings were built in 2011 and 2007 respectively.

In the wake of the reports, Engineering New Zealand [ENZ], the country’s professional body and MBIE are working on changes to guidelines.

Both the professional body and the ministry have taken steps to address the problems.

Susan Freeman-Greene, the chief executive of ENZ, said there were two parts to their work based on the findings.

The first was an investigation into whether the chartered professional engineers who designed six Masterton buildings provided engineering services in accordance with accepted standards.

The second was a broader inquiry to consider wider issues.

“What’s the most important thing in this situation is that there are enough checks and balances to pick up any of these mistakes on the way through,” Freeman-Greene said.

“And the fact that these mistakes are getting through means there aren’t enough checks and balances or being applied inconsistently.

“When I talk about checks and balances, I’m talking about good quality assurance, good peer review, proper construction monitoring and all those pieces that link the system together and protect everyone from, like in any profession and any endeavour – if you think about the medical profession all the checks and balances that happen.

“And those are the things we need to work on ourselves and with industry. And we’re confident that everyone is saying the same things about working together on this. That’s where our focus is going to be.”

MBIE decided to set up a working group with the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand (SESOC) to provide technical advice to industry on how to design and remediate the kind of buildings referenced in the commissioned report, said Dave Robson, the ministry’s building performance and engineering manager.

“Government and the construction industry are committed to transforming the sector through the Construction Sector Accord and a Transformation Plan.”

The government will be launching the transformation plan towards the end of the year, Robson said.

 

Additional reporting by Radio New Zealand.