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Engineer calls for Williamson's resignation

Published: 9:05PM Friday February 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

An engineer who has been warning the Government for years that New Zealand buildings are not up to scratch has called on Building and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson to resign.

Auckland-based structural engineer John Scarry says he has been vindicated by a report which showed the Canterbury Television building was not up to code.

The CTV collapse was responsible for the deaths of 115 people in last February's quake, which killed 184 people in total.

Scarry had raised concerns with the Government about the need for seismic-resistant design. He said when he and a group of engineers spoke to Williamson about concerns they had in 2008, the minister promised "to get to the bottom of it", but instead has done "nothing" and needs to resign.

"They listened enough to write worthless reports and say a few good things in sound bites, but there has been no fundamental reform that was necessary," Scarry told TV ONE's Close Up programme tonight.

Williamson told Close Up he thinks Scarry has a lot of good points and that many of his recommendations, including the passing of the Building Act and changes to the Codes of Practice, have been put into action.

But he said he is a "politician who doesn't know a lot about engineering" and he needs to take his advice from others as well.

"Every time I talk to the Institute of Professional Engineers, which represents 10,000 - they say they don't agree with him [Scarry]," Williamson said.

"Why can't he get the vast bulk of his colleagues on side? Because if they did, we would have no option.'"

Scarry claims the engineers the Government consults with have a vested interest.

"The best structural steel engineer in New Zealand - who's just about the best structural engineer in the world - agrees with me fully," he said.

"The slightest investigation shows that the majority of these people who are recognised by the Government are the directors of companies that designed these shockers either personally, or they were the directors or they signed them off," he said.

Williamson said that's an "appalling" claim.

"I think of all the people that were on our investigation panel looking at CTV. I don't believe you could point to any one of them that's somehow involved in a big business that's going to be a benefactor from it."

Scarry says he does not have confidence in the Christchurch rebuild.

"The first building of the rebuild failed on the 13th of June. [It] was leaning over at 5 degrees and had to be demolished."

Williamson said he is exploring whether signs should be placed outside buildings to show how earthquake resistant they are.