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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inquiries will not try to find who is at fault

Inquiries will not try to find who is at fault

Last updated 05:00 13/04/2011
Investigations into the collapse of two Christchurch buildings will not apportion blame.

Christchurch police also were "unlikely" to start any criminal investigations relating to the Canterbury Television (CTV) and Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC) buildings.

The royal commission of inquiry and a Department of Building and Housing investigation will consider why the buildings collapsed, but will not address liability.

The commission will focus on the CTV and PGC buildings, but will also consider other buildings that failed, causing injury and death.

It will investigate whether current requirements for the design and construction of central business district buildings are adequate and why so many are red-stickered.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said the commission did not adjudicate on legal liability.

"The investigation that the royal commission does may raise questions that other agencies may wish to look further into," he said. "That's a matter entirely for them."

The Department of Building and Housing investigation includes the failures of the Forsyth Barr and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings.

It will look at the design codes, construction methods and building controls at the time the buildings were designed and constructed.

It will also consider the "knowledge that a competent structural-geotechnical engineer could reasonably be expected to have of the seismic hazard and ground conditions when these buildings were designed".

Deputy chief executive, building quality, David Kelly said the department's investigation was technical and would feed into the commission of inquiry.

"The department has no powers to issue criminal proceedings and it is not the department's role to allocate liability," he said.

The head of Operation Earthquake, Superintendent Andy McGregor, said police had not started any criminal investigation into the quake and were "unlikely to do so unless any substantive criminal matters are identified".

The Department of Labour said it was making inquiries with other agencies to determine whether there were "workplace health and safety aspects that require investigation".

Toyama College professor Kuniaki Kawahata, who lost his 20-year-old daughter in the CTV building, said from Japan that the families' main concern was to find out why the building collapsed while nearby buildings remained standing.

"As time goes by, our anger kind of subsides gradually, but once in a while when we remember our children, when they were still alive, what they did, how we talked to them, then suddenly that anger comes back to us," he said.

Kawahata believed someone should be held accountable. "I think there must be someone who should be responsible for so many lives lost in the rubble," he said.

Families and the owners of the Japanese school were considering their legal position.

CTV chairman Nick Smith said he did not want to see the commission's findings swept under the carpet because of possible litigation by the families of quake victims. "We don't want to finger any one person, but I certainly would like to know that if the systems are wrong, we should be told, and if the building codes are wrong, we should be told."

The head of Canterbury's Chinese quake support group, Clark Xu, said the families of the Chinese students who died in the CTV building wanted answers.

However, there had been no talk of legal action.

"They believe the Government should take some responsibility for what happened because the earthquake happened in September and after that the Government allowed the students and working people to go back there again," he said.

The commission's interim report is due in October, with the final report to be delivered by April next year.

- The Press

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