When the 22 February 2011 earthquake hit, buildings in Christchurch on the whole did exactly what was expected of them in an earthquake: they stood standing and people were able to safely evacuate. With a few very notable exceptions that is precisely what happened. However, those where this did not happen, failed badly. The worst was the Canterbury Television building.
When the earthquake hit at 1251 hours, the six story building collapsed with just the lift tower still intact. 115 people out of the total of 185 who died in or as a result of the earthquake were killed in the C.T.V. building. Since the earthquake, the building and those who were responsible for the design and construction have been the focus of intense scrutiny.
Today it has emerged that the lawyer for Dr Alan Reay, who was responsible for overseeing the design of the building and its construction, has told the Court that to have an inquiry is not in the public interest.
The Canterbury Television building was designed by David Harding under the guidance of Alan Reay, who was a registered Chartered Professional Engineer. Mr Harding did not have experience in designing buildings with a height of more than two stories. Another individual, one Gerald Shirtcliff who has since been found to have committed theft of an academic degree in Civil Engineering, was supposed to be the site foreman, and regularly visit to ensure compliance with the building code. Although Australian Police who initially investigated the fraud decided not to prosecute Mr Shirtcliff, he is under investigation by the New Zealand Police with regards to the fraud, claims his role was minor.
It is in the interests of both the public at large and the New Zealand building industry that the investigation into the conduct of Alan Reay and how the C.T.V. building collapsed, be conducted. For the families of the people who died in the building it will bring a degree of closure that they might not otherwise be able to have. For the New Zealand building industry, whether building companies want to admit it or not, the darkest and saddest chapter in its history needs to be definitively closed and the lessons drawn so that this cannot happen again.
Canterbury Television building before and after the 22 February 2011 earthquake (photo: 3News)