Protracted Complaint Into Workplace Practices Dating Back Almost 40 Years Ago Serves No Public Interest
Dr Alan Reay, who is the respondent in an IPENZ (aka Engineering NZ) disciplinary hearing taking place in Christchurch this week, says the nearly decade long process to get to this point has allowed false assumptions to take root and fester, stigmatizing Dr Reay and extracting a heavy toll.
The hearing seeks to discipline Dr Reay for an alleged failure to adequately supervise the senior engineer who designed the CTV building in 1986 while working at Alan Reay Consulting Engineers.
Legal counsel for Dr Reay said the hearing is not about litigating blame for the CTV building collapse.
‘Investigations by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission (and others) have already undertaken analysis of the complex and multi-layered chain of events that ultimately led to that tragic event in Feb 2011. The terms of reference of this hearing are limited solely to the determination of a single complaint regarding the adequacy of Dr Reay’s supervision of the senior employee who designed the CTV building - which was raised some 11 years ago and has taken until now to reach the Engineering NZ Disciplinary Committee.
‘The complaint focuses on employment procedures in the mid-1980’s – some 40 years ago, a time when standard employment practices, including the degree of supervision of employed senior engineers, differed markedly from that of today. All other complaints against Dr Reay have been dismissed.’
Dr Reay strongly denies the allegations at the centre of the IPENZ disciplinary complaint. Counter to what has been widely reported, he believed – and had good reason to do so - that the senior engineer, Mr Harding, was sufficiently competent and supported by access to relevant professional information and expertise to undertake this work.
David Harding was not a junior engineer as many have portrayed. He was a registered senior engineer with 13 years of post-graduation experience by 1986, including the design of multi-level buildings.
The allegations at the centre of the complaint relate to a time when there were no relevant professional standards requiring supervision of a senior registered engineer such as David Harding. It was common practice for senior engineers to work independently and seek assistance when required – David Harding never sought such assistance or gave any indication of requiring it. Regardless, Dr Reay did provide adequate oversight. To assess his actions on current day standards which have long since changed, is patently unfair.
Much has been made of Dr Reay’s 2014 resignation from IPENZ and his rebuttal of the extremely protracted IPENZ disciplinary action. In taking these steps he has never intended any disrespect of the families and friends of the CTV building victims or to in any way minimise their loss – he has simply been seeking a fair and professional process; which has to date been denied him.
Over the many years that this process has drawn out Dr Reay has co-operated, including seeking out documents dating back 40 years to the time of the CTV building’s design. The delays have been stressful for the CTV families, and for Dr Reay and his family. During this time he has repeatedly offered to make himself available to meet with the families, however all such offers have been refused by IPENZ (Engineering NZ).
While recognising that the desire for accountability for the CTV building tragedy is entirely understandable, Dr Reay believes he has been an easy target to blame. Continuing to pursue him in this matter is simply ‘a witch hunt’ and serves no public interest.
None of this will restore the lives lost in the CTV building collapse but out of the tragedy have come significant learnings and change. Engineering standards were inadequate in the 1980s and those standards have been improved; due in no small part to the advocacy of the CTV families. They have played an important role in helping to prevent a tragedy on this scale from ever happening again.
Dr Reay wishes to acknowledge and thank all those who have stood by him and his family over the many years of intense scrutiny and persecution that this matter has perpetuated.
Dr Reay is now 82 and long retired. He has been unwell for some time and is medically unfit to attend the hearing.