Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission Te Komihana Rūwhenua o Waitaha Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission – Te Komihana Rūwhenua o Waitaha

Those who lost relatives and friends in the 22 February earthquake can be assured that there will be a very thorough inquiry into the failure of buildings that resulted in loss of life.
Chair, Justice Mark Cooper

Inquiry Process

The Commission developed and implemented an approach to the investigation of the principal issues, which has the elements discussed below.

The approach reflected the breadth of the investigation required by the Terms of Reference, and the fact that, unlike some other investigations that have been referred to commissions of inquiry, this Inquiry was not one that could sensibly have been conducted simply by inviting submissions from interested parties, considering what they might be prepared to tell the Commission (supplemented by appropriate questioning by Counsel assisting) and make findings based solely on the evidence given at a hearing.

That approach would have risked some relevant issues being covered incompletely, or even not at all. There would have been a risk also that the Commission would not have been presented with differing opinions on some important issues, because in the absence of clear disputes (arising plainly or by necessary implication from the Terms of Reference itself) persons having rival opinions might not have been aware of what others were saying to the Commission.

The Commission accordingly set out to ensure that it received, as far as possible, appropriate advice on all of the relevant issues. On the principal issues that it identified, the Royal Commission:

(a) commissioned advice from people and organisations within New Zealand who had appropriate expertise;

(b) adopted and implemented a policy that the advice received would generally be peer reviewed by eminent overseas experts;

(c) published on this website the advice received under (a) and (b);

(d) called for expressions of interest in relation to each of the identified principal issues;

(e) in relation to each of the issues, identified persons or organisations who, while not filing expressions of interest, were nevertheless likely to have information that would assist the work of the Commission;

(f) called for evidence and submissions on the principal issues both from those who lodged expressions of interest and those others whom the Commission considered had relevant contributions to make;

(g) published on this website the evidence and submissions received in relation to the principal issues; and

(h) conducted hearings, and heard evidence on the issues as appropriate.

The approach outlined brought most aspects of the Inquiry into line with the approach that was required in relation to the four named buildings in the representative sample of buildings in the Christchurch CBD. In the case of those buildings, the Terms of Reference envisaged that the Commission would receive and take into account the results of the separate technical investigation  conducted by the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) into the failure of the CTV, PGC, Forsyth Barr and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings.

The DBH instructed consultants to report on the failure of each of those buildings, and also received a report from an expert panel appointed to review the consultants’ reports. The Commission published these reports on this website and sought its own advice on them. While the  Commission expected that the results of the DBH technical investigation would be of significant assistance, we formed our own views, and the results of the technical investigation were contestable in the Commission’s hearings process.