CTV Building Collapse

Neil Green / SenateSHJ / Wellington, New Zealand

Car alarms, screams and the dust from broken buildings told a story of unimaginable destruction when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand at 12:51 p.m., Tuesday 22 February 2011, killing 185 people. The lives of thousands of people were changed forever, including the families of the 115 people who lost their lives when the six-story Canterbury Television (CTV) building collapsed.

The New Zealand government’s Department of Building and Housing (the Department) was charged with managing the investigations into the collapse of the CTV building, the collapse of one other commercial building and the failure of critical building components in two other buildings in the central business district (CBD).

The Department commissioned two experts to lead the CTV investigation and an independent panel of 11 experts to review their work. The investigators and expert panel could not determine exactly how the building collapsed, but they agreed that it was most likely caused by the failure of one or more columns on the east face of the building. They also found that aspects of the building didn’t comply with the building code in 1986, when the CTV building was built.

The communication task

In January 2012, almost a year after the 22 February earthquake, the Department engaged SenateSHJ to provide strategic and tactical communication support to communicate the findings of the technical investigation into the collapse of the CTV building.

The Department needed a strategic communication approach that would be credible and authoritative, while also being sensitive to the families of those who had been killed in the CTV building and to the survivors and wider Christchurch community.