22 September 2016

Masterton buildings issue

An issue with some buildings in Masterton has had some local media coverage and is likely to attract wider coverage. It’s an issue that IPENZ is taking seriously and is determined to get to the bottom of.

After concerns were raised about six buildings in Masterton by one of our members, IPENZ alerted MBIE. This resulted in initial seismic assessments of these six buildings, followed by more detailed assessments. The owner of these buildings has also commissioned assessments of another five buildings. At the moment, IPENZ doesn’t have any of these assessments so we don’t have the details. But based on the information in the public domain, it may be that something in the checks and balances in the delivery process hasn’t worked here. This is what we need to look into.

We know how important it is for IPENZ to take a leadership role, and we are actively talking with the profession about potential ways to respond if there is a wider issue. This includes considering what more we can and can’t do to increase confidence in professional standards. We’re setting up a working group of respected industry professionals to guide us on this.

We understand we will receive complaints against engineers in relation to the six buildings that have had detailed assessments so far. If a complaint is made about a particular member of IPENZ or a Chartered Professional Engineer in relation to the buildings’ designs, then we will assess the complaint and determine the most appropriate way to respond. This could include initiating a disciplinary process.

IPENZ’s role is to have high standards of accountability and professionalism for our members and Chartered Professional Engineers. We understand the responsibility for reviewing buildings sits with territorial authorities, with MBIE being the monitoring agency. We all need to work together.

We are constantly thinking of how we can work with you to raise standards. You know that we have recently taken action to strengthen our profession through our new Code of Ethical Conduct, which requires engineers to report concerns about public safety and about other engineers’ work. We have also strengthened and streamlined our complaints process, and we have revised guidelines for assessing structural engineers.

We are also talking to MBIE about task-based licencing of engineers for safety-critical work. This means restricting safety-critical design to engineers specifically licensed to do this work. We believe this should be considered as part of any new occupational regulation framework.

Engineers’ reputation is important to all of us. We want to reassure you that IPENZ is determined to take a leadership role on issues of concern to the profession. We welcome your feedback