Minister sees no widespread problems after Palmerston North building woes revealed

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa‚Äč says there is not enough information to say an investigation that found Palmerston North buildings designed by an engineering firm likely had design problems proves there is a systemic issue.

Meanwhile, a council that had buildings designed by the same firm is comfortable with the company's work.

A report by engineering consultant Beca into 12 Palmerston North buildings found eight had potential deficiencies, possibly making them non-compliant with building standards.

The checks only looked at seismic design and material use, and involved no on-site inspections of the buildings designed by Kevin O'Connor and Associates.

All the buildings were given resource consent by the Palmerston North City Council and staff there would have viewed plans before signing off on consent.

Kevin O'Connor and Associates has been involved in designing 148 buildings in Palmerston North, but it is not clear if more buildings will be checked by Beca.

The Palmerston North City Council has failed to provide anyone to be interviewed about the situation, despite a commercial property lawyer telling Stuff building owners may be able to take legal action against the council for negligence.

But in information sent out with the report, it said it did not make the information available after Beca's checks in 2018 so the owners had time to see if the buildings were earthquake prone.

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa says changes are on the way for the construction industry.
Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa says changes are on the way for the construction industry.

Salesa said she expected the buildings to be put on the earthquake-prone register if their condition was that bad.

The news about Kevin O'Connor and Associates comes as new technology found hundreds of major buildings across New Zealand had defective or missing concrete or reinforcing steel

Salesa said there was not enough information to suggest a systemic problem in the construction industry, because the Beca report only looked at one engineering firm and its designs.

"These are different issues."

Changes to the regulation of builders and engineers were expected to be announced in early 2020, she said.

The Kevin O'Connor and Associates problem extends outside Palmerston North, with Horowhenua District Council using the firm for engineering services on its main council building and Te Takere, the library and community centre.

Deposed Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen consistently claimed the council building was not safe and did not trust council-commissioned reports finding it was safe.

In a statement, the council said there was no evidence to suggest any of the Kevin O'Connor and Associates work failed to meet required standards.

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