In response to the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission’s recommendation that the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (IPENZ) should clarify its code of ethics regarding reporting risks to public health and safety, a working group spent three years developing a new Code of Ethical Conduct.

Elena Trout, President of IPENZ, and an independent director of Harrison Grierson, discusses the new Code, which came into effect on 1 July 2016.

Engineers are united in their desire to help shape the world into a better place, and this is best demonstrated through their professionalism and ethics.

IPENZ has over 18,000 members and 100 of these work at Harrison Grierson. Our new Code of Ethical Conduct is the cornerstone of what it means to be a professional engineer. It gives a decision making framework for professional behaviour. Ethics and professionalism unite us in our diversity of disciplines and career paths.

That’s why engineers across the country are embracing the new Code, which clearly sets out our duties to the public and our expectations of each other.

What’s changed?

There are new obligations about reporting risks to public health and safety. Engineers must now report potential adverse consequences for people’s health and safety, and for the environment. They must take action if they see something of concern. For example, if they’re aware of potential design flaws in a building under construction, or poor construction practices that threaten health and safety. Or, they must report it if they suspect another engineer has significantly breached the Code.

The new Code also makes explicit an engineer’s obligations to keep knowledge and skills up to date, and to treat others with respect and courtesy.

Keeping New Zealand safe

Importantly, the new Code reflects New Zealanders’ expectation of professional engineers, which were highlighted following the Canterbury earthquakes. It’s no exaggeration that our new Code can save lives. This is because it confirms our duty NOT to provide advice when we’re not expert in a particular area, and to say so.

IPENZ takes ethics and professionalism very seriously, holding our engineers to account on behalf of the New Zealand public. We know that setting ethical standards helps build public trust in our professionalism.


Engineering ethics are founded on professional competence, personal integrity and social responsibility. The new Code is the backbone of what it means to be a professional engineer in New Zealand. It binds IPENZ members undertaking any engineering activities, including professional engineers, technologists and technicians.

Ultimately, however, each situation requires engineers to exercise their own professional judgement. Ethics and professionalism are the combined tools needed to identify, analyse and respond to competing issues. They’re the tools required for making sound professional judgements, for ensuring the best possible outcomes for our clients, and for helping to make the world a better place.

To read the new Code of Ethical Conduct click here.

This thought leadership article by Elena Trout, President of IPENZ and an independent director of Harrison Grierson, is intended to provide you with insights and relevant information on the new IPENZ Code of Ethical Conduct. Our thought leadership articles on topical and specialist issues are designed to present the key points in an easy to digest and interesting manner.

Back to HG Perspective