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Christchurch Engineer Dr Wu “acted Incompetently”

Christchurch engineer Dr Zheng (William) Wu has been censured and fined by an Engineering New Zealand disciplinary committee for performing engineering services in an incompetent manner and breaching the Code of Ethical Conduct by not disclosing his conflict of interest in a residential property he was selling.

Dr Wu bought the residential property in 2018. He then designed and carried out earthquake repairs below the standard of normal practice, and re-listed the property for sale in 2019.

Dr Wu is a Chartered Professional Engineer, Chartered Member of Engineering New Zealand and sole director of Sinotek Engineering Limited.

On behalf of Sinotek, Dr Wu signed and issued a structural inspection report for the property, outlining his investigations and recommendations for the structural design. The report states no site-specific geotechnical investigation was undertaken as part of the assessment, even though it was a requirement for the site.

Dr Wu then applied to the Christchurch City Council for an exemption from building consent for his remedial design, which he was granted, and engaged Sinotek to undertake the design and construction monitoring of the remedial works.

As a Chartered Professional Engineer, Dr Wu signed off the design and construction monitoring documentation, and undertook the work himself.

Dr Wu issued the producer statement confirming the works were completed as per the designs submitted to the Council. Inspection was to occur before the remedial works began and after the works had been completed. Only one inspection of work was recorded.

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Dr Wu then listed the property with a real estate agent.

The complainants had made an offer on the property but revoked it after receiving an independent report that raised numerous concerns about the adequacy of the earthquake remedial works. The complainants immediately provided their report to the Council.

Neither the Council nor potential purchasers were informed of, or could readily identify, Dr Wu’s interest in the property.

The Disciplinary Committee said Dr Wu “acted incompetently in carrying out post-earthquake repair works on a residential property”.

“We find that Dr Wu demonstrated a serious lack of understanding of the standards and requirements and standards for repairing a residential property after earthquake damage as evidenced by his failure to identify the inadequacies of the repairs completed, his failure to obtain an independent geotechnical report and poor standard of documentation.”

The Disciplinary Committee considered Dr Wu’s “failure to disclose his interest to potential third party purchasers [was] a serious departure from accepted ethical standards.”

The Disciplinary Committee ordered Dr Wu be censured, fined and pay a contribution to costs for a total of $10,200 (excluding GST). It also ordered Dr Wu undertake professional development in technical considerations relating to post-earthquake repair of residential properties, as well as professional practice and ethics.

Read the full decision

Notes to reporters

Dr Wu was fined $2,500 and ordered to pay 50 percent of costs, being $7,700 plus GST.

Dr Wu has six months to complete his professional development. If this doesn’t happen, Dr Wu’s membership with Engineering New Zealand will be suspended for six months. His registration as a Chartered Professional Engineer will not be affected.

Engineering New Zealand is New Zealand's professional body for engineers, with some 22,000 members. We represent – and regulate – our members. We also act as the Registration Authority for Chartered Professional Engineers.

Disciplinary Committees can make orders under the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act 2002 and Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Rules (No 2) 2002. Where an engineer is a member of Engineering New Zealand as well as a chartered professional engineer, orders can also be made under our membership rules and disciplinary regulations. The maximum fine that can be imposed is $5,000 under the Act or $10,000 under the membership rules.

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