Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the Code?

The Code of Ethical Conduct is the backbone of what it means to be a professional engineer. The Code sets out expectations for behaviour to ensure professional engineers discharge their duties to the public and to each other. It raises the bar on ethical behaviour.

Why has the Code been updated?

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission recommended that IPENZ should clarify our Code of ethics, in relation to reporting risks to public health and safety. It was also timely to review both the IPENZ and Chartered Professional Engineers codes. The last comprehensive review of the IPENZ Code was in 1996, with some refining of this version in 2005. The Chartered Professional Engineers Code was drafted in 2002. This revision aligns these two codes.

What are the key changes in the new Code?

The new Code contains two key changes from the existing Code:
  • Engineers have a new obligation to report potential adverse consequences for public health and safety and for the environment. This means that they must take action if they observe an engineering matter of concern.
  • Engineers are now required to report significant breaches of the Code by other engineers.
The Code also makes explicit engineers’ obligation to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, and to treat others with respect and courtesy.

Were the changes in this Code prompted by criticism of engineers around the Christchurch earthquakes?

Not specifically, however the changes to the Code do take into account various issues raised in a number of complaints that IPENZ (as the professional body for IPENZ members and the Registration Authority for chartered professional engineers) has had to consider over the past few years.

If this Code had been in place previously, would it have stopped events like the CTV building collapse and Pike River?

The Code is designed to prevent the kind of behaviour that lead to these events. Engineers have a new obligation to report potential adverse consequences. This means that they must take action if they observe something of concern. The action will depend on the circumstances but could include reporting the situation to the relevant regulatory body.

What other changes has IPENZ made to its complaints process since the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath?

We have made a number of changes to our complaints process. One change is that members cannot avoid our disciplinary processes by resigning their membership. A complete review of the whole complaints and discipline system is underway. As part of that review we have already made improvements to the way we manage complaints to create a more robust, proportionate and efficient complaints resolution process. We expect more changes to be made.

Does the Code apply to all engineers in New Zealand?

Engineers who are members of IPENZ are subject to the Code. IPENZ has over 17,000 members. Engineers who have qualified as Chartered Professional Engineers are also subject to a separate but identical Code. There are approximately 3,300 Chartered Professional Engineers in New Zealand. Most Chartered Professional Engineers are also members of IPENZ.

While these two codes are different documents, this review has made their content identical. The IPENZ Code is part of IPENZ rules; the CPEng Code is governed by the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act 2002 and is embodied in the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Rules (No 2) 2002.

It’s important to point out that some engineers are neither members of IPENZ nor Chartered Professional Engineers. The Code does not apply to these people.

What does “significant” mean, in terms of the requirement to report breaches?

This will depend very much on the circumstances. Engineers will need to exercise their professional judgement. If in doubt engineers can discuss the matter with IPENZ or their peers.

What consultation was carried out in developing the revised Code?

This process started in February 2013 and has involved extensive consultation with our members and Chartered Professional Engineers. We also consulted with engineering firms, members of the legal profession and consumer representatives. Our engineers support the obligations in the revised Code.

What should I do if I have concerns about an engineer?

Anyone can raise concerns with IPENZ that a member or chartered professional engineer has breached the Code. We have a dedicated team responsible for responding to concerns to ensure they are dealt with appropriately and efficiently. The first step is to contact IPENZ and discuss how best to proceed.

Does the requirement to report adverse consequences mean engineers will break confidentiality?

Under the Code, engineers can disclose confidential information where significant adverse consequences are likely for public health and safety or the environment. They would disclose this information to the relevant regulator. They can also disclose confidential information if asked by a court of law.

The Code stipulates that engineers must give the parties concerned a chance to respond before they disclose the confidential information.

How do I find out more?

Get in touch with us if you have any questions at ipenz@ipenz.org.nz