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Engineers regulation to be strengthened

Hon Dr Nick Smith

Minister for Building and Construction

4 September 2014 Media Statement

Engineers regulation to be strengthened

The regulation of engineers is to be strengthened to ensure they have the right knowledge, skills and competence to design safe buildings and to hold them more accountable for substandard work, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“We need to improve the occupational regulation of engineers involved in the design and construction of buildings and to increase the consequences for those found to be incompetent,” Dr Smith says.

The reforms build on the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Canterbury earthquakes and involve significant changes to the Building Act and Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act.

“It will be a legal requirement that significant engineering structures like multi-storey buildings are designed and certified by an appropriately skilled Chartered Professional Engineer. This mandatory registration of professional engineers will cover structural, geotechnical and fire engineering. This will fix the anomaly that a person designing a simple residential home must be licensed but a complex multi-storey commercial building can technically be designed by anybody,” Dr Smith says.

“We are going to tighten and improve the disciplinary processes for engineers. An engineer will not be able to resign to avoid scrutiny and accountability. The process for dealing with serious misconduct will be referred to an independent body at arm’s length from the engineers’ professional body IPENZ. We are also going to broaden the range of sanctions and penalties and increase the maximum professional fines from $5000 to $20,000.

“A new legal obligation will require engineers to notify building consent authorities of serious building code breaches. This will override any commercial or perceived obligations to clients and ensure public safety is paramount. We do not want a repeat of the CTV building where deficiencies were identified in 1990 but not reported to the appropriate authority.

“We are going to improve standards of engineering by putting more rigour into the competence standards for engineers. The registration authority will also be required to publish more detailed information about engineers’ areas of competence. There will also be new powers for the Minister to initiate performance audits.

“These proposals are part of the Government’s broader response to the Canterbury earthquakes. We have made significant increases in our investment in engineering training. We are systematically reviewing the buildings with potential non-ductile columns. We are progressing legislative reform around earthquake-prone buildings. We are confident this programme of reform will make New Zealand safer and more resilient for when the next earthquake strikes.

“We welcome public input on these proposals for reforming the regulation of engineers. Engineers have played an important role in New Zealand’s development over the past century, but as society becomes more sophisticated, we become more dependent on reliable, well-designed engineering systems. This work is about laying the foundation for improved competency and standards of engineering into the future,” Dr Smith concluded.

Consultation papers are available at www.dbh.govt.nz/occupational-regulation-of-engineers. Submissions close on 31 October.

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