Engineers – it’s time to stand up and be counted. I’m not sure if you lot in the Engineering crowd have noticed lately, but Aotearoa is getting mighty tired of you and your antics. Engineering NZ needs to be present in the room and take some responsibility for what a horrible unholy mess you have got this country in. Yes YOU, you know who I mean and what I’m talking about – and yet you’re conspicuous by your absence at present.

What am I talking about, you claim in bewilderment? What on earth is the problem, you cry in mock astonishment that anyone might have such a complaint about your fine profession?

Shiny new branding – but no voice

Do you really want me to spell it out? Really? With buildings all over the country getting closed down at a moment’s notice, despite standing up fine for years and being weathering many earthquakes with narry an issue? In the last month alone, we have seen multiple hospital buildings around the country issue notices that they will have to be shut down; with office buildings in every city abruptly shut at zero notice for spurious reasons; for buildings that were just completed within the last last decade or two now claimed to be earthquake prone; for even buildings holding Government Departments and MPs now being declared off limits; with large swathes of the city (in Wellington and elsewhere) shut down and dead and dying – where, in all of this, is the fine newly minted organisation that is Engineering NZ? Absent, inaudible, and doing a crap job of placating the mass of New Zealanders who are left wondering “What the hell is going on?”.

Hutt Hospital, before they tossed all the pregnant women and babies out into the forecourt for “safety reasons”

As an architect with half a brain, I am reasonably clued up on what the issues are, but NZ puts its trust in you Engineers, to an extraordinary degree. Your word is, literally, the very Gospel, and no-one can argue against you. You have, in the past, inspired admiration in the hearts of many, with your inherent cleverness and concern for the safety of the multitudes. You are, literally, a modern-day Jesus who walks on water – well, maybe walks on liquefactionable ground and gives us an Almighty “thumbs up” or a disheartening “thumbs down”.

Engineer offering a helping hand to poor downtrodden building owner/occupier

But this has gone on too long and your actions have gone too far and your people are crying out loudly, saying “What the fuck is going on here?” and other comments too much ruder to print. And yet the Engineers of Aotearoa stay mum – not a murmur of explanation or of placation. Time for this to end, people!

Do it !! Walk on water !

If I may be so rude as to point out the bleeding obvious, its the Yellow Chapter of the Red Book wot dunnit ! And Engineering NZ needs to be on the front foot, talking to NZ about what this means and how to cope with it. To explain it, I’ll just use the words from their own website:

“The Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings (2017), or ‘Red Book’, is a mandatory set of technical guidelines for seismic assessments. One section, C5, deals with the assessment of concrete buildings. In 2018, C5 was revised to include the latest knowledge following the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake. Engineers can now use this revision, known as the ‘Yellow Chapter’, for all assessments – except when determining whether a building is earthquake-prone, whereby the Red Book must be used. A %NBS (New Building Standard) rating indicates how well a building protects life when compared with a hypothetical similar new building on that same site and which complies with the minimum requirements of the Building Code. An earthquake-prone building has a rating of 34% NBS or less and has been deemed ‘earthquake-prone’ by the relevant local authority.”

There, does that all make sense now? No? I thought not. Doesn’t really explain to me how a building – such as the Meridian building, completed about 15 years ago, is suddenly now considered so devoid of earthquake resistance that it has to be closed and everyone sent home. Really? One minute it is cutting edge, a mere decade later it’s a basket case? I just don’t believe that. Or the IRD building, Asteron House, opposite the Railway Station – is that open again yet, or is it still a packing-case of whispering spiders and rattling stairwells? Closed for the rest of the year, we hear, with 1000 tax staff working from home. Yes, all your precious private tax return data, being processed from the spare bedroom in Kilbirnie – is that really what NZ should be doing?

Services falling from the ceiling, so we shut the whole thing down. Really? Is that the right thing to do?

Or Hawkes Bay Hospital being unable to install new MRI equipment – or even Wellington’s own ER clinic – to be frank, this is a complete shit-show of disaster proportions, and we haven’t even had the disaster yet!!

How about a nice picture from the MBIE report explaining it all? Will this help?

Hmmmm…. I’m not 100% sure that that helped either. Ministers have been warned, but nothing has been done. It is now time for someone from MBIE or from EngineeringNZ to stand up and reassure the public that we are not all going to die, that the world is not about to end, that the building they are in is not going to fall down, that the Red Book and the Yellow chapter are not just a scene from Alice in Wonderland, and most of all: “That they have a Plan, and this is how it is going to work.” How about it, Engineers? Time to show some mettle, to stand up and make some public statements and some useful reassuring sounds, and tell us what the hell is going on!!! PLEASE !!!