Councils lacking knowledge about quality of steel in buildings

Local councils are being asked to sign off on major buildings when they have big gaps in what they know about the steel frames and seismic strength.

That's according to Steel Construction New Zealand (SCNZ), an industry body that has been briefing councils about the dangers of having an inadequate building consent regime.

SCNZ had been fielding a growing number of calls for help, from engineers and building owners but also from councils, its chairperson Wayne Carson said.

"They are realising now what they need to know - they didn't know what they didn't know," he said.

"I liken this to the leaky building syndrome ... councils have certainly realised that there's great similarities with compliance as there is with leaky buildings."

Mr Carson, who works for large Auckland fabricator D&H Steel, led recent SCNZ roadshows to councils in Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton, and Christchurch, and all councils south of Dunedin.

"The traditional kind of procurement process meant that councils would, at the end of a project, be delivered a whole lot of documentation to say, 'here we go, we're finished' and then be expected to sign it off.

"And, in some cases, that has been the point where the alarm bells have gone and so they're - in retrospect - trying to deal with some of these issues."

Like the councils, many consulting engineers had not known how to ensure there was a system of rigorous checks on whether the raw steel and welding were up to New Zealand standards and seismic standards.

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