Ebert Construction's collapse stokes fears of NZ's booming building and construction industry going bust

Fears are growing of New Zealand's booming building and construction industry going bust after the collapse of a major construction firm, Ebert Construction.

The domino-effect could be devastating with experts saying the receivership could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The liquidation of Ebert Construction leaves hundreds of workers and contractors across the country in limbo, facing an uncertain future.

It's estimated at least $40 million is owed to creditors.

Ninety-five workers directly employed by Ebert have been paid until today.

It looks like we've got a dwindling number of firms - Cameron Bagrie, economist

But economists say it's a worrying sign, especially with big players such as Fletcher Building facing tough financial times. 

"We've got a construction sector pipeline that's bigger than Ben Hur, and of course it looks like we've got a dwindling number of firms in regards to being able to meet that pipeline," said economist Cameron Bagrie.

The cost of materials and a shortage of skilled workers are just part of the problem.

"You've got issues in regard to regulatory burdens. You've got issue in regard to the availability of workers. Within the Auckland residential property market, you've got to go up, you've got to go out. You've got issues in regard to infrastructure. You're opening up Pandora's box. It's one hell of a big list," Mr Bagrie said.

PwC receiver John Fisk said a lot of the big contracts are on pretty thin margins, " and so if something starts to go wrong then the losses can rattle up very quickly".

Ebert Construction called in receivers PwC last night after realising the business wasn't viable.

"One thing for sure certain is, we won't be able to complete all the contracts," Mr Fisk said. 

Among the 15 projects affected are a 153-unit apartment block in central Auckland, Middlemore Hospital's new mental health unit and two Synlait dairy projects.

"It'll come down to how much is it going to cost to complete the contract now that Ebert is in receivership and then what resources the developer has," Mr Fisk said. 

With 30 staff, the receivership is quite a shock - Greg Dunn, BCD Carpentry director

Workers from Wellington building company BCD Carpentry grabbed what tools they could from their construction site at the Indian High Commission this morning after Ebert went into receivership. 

"It's taken me 10 years to get where I am. And it's taken these guys, you know working class Kiwis four to five years to get all their tools. And then to be told in the morning you might not be able to have these, the uncertainty was very scary and frustrating for all the men as well as myself," said Greg Dunn, BCD Carpentry director. 

Mr Dunn estimates his small Porirua business is owed tens of thousands of dollars.

"With 30 staff, the receivership is quite a shock," he said.

"Knowing they have families and mortgages and bills to pay, it has huge ripple effects on everyone." 

It comes after the Ebert Construction went into liquidation today. Source: 1 NEWS


Māori cultural centre for Whangārei hopes for $5 million council grant

The long-held dream of a Māori cultural centre for Whangārei is hanging on hopes of a $5 million council grant.

Work has just begun on the first stage of the project - a big carving workshop and waka shelter, east of the Town Basin in the Hihiaua Peninsula.

But stage two, a theatre, will be competing for council funding with hotel developers across the river.

Master Carver Te Warihi Hetaraka can visualise exactly what the Hihiaua Cultural Centre will look like.

The trust he's a part of has been planning it for ten years, but it's been the dream of his elders for much longer.

"The vision of it started back in the 1980s when the kaumātua realised that kids were losing their culture fast - real fast. They saw a cultural centre as a place where they could retain a lot of the knowledge that used to be handed down and is no longer with us."

Some of those arts and skills - carving, weaving and waka building - would finally have a home in Whangārei by next April.

A former boat-building shed on the Waiarohia Stream is being converted into an art workshop space, with a waka shelter and launching gantry.

Half the $2 million cost has been covered with a grant from the Provincial Growth Fund, and the rest from the Whangarei District Council, Foundation North and Te Puni Kokiri.

But it's the next stage that will be the big one: A 700 seat theatre for the performing arts, a facility Whangārei has needed for years.

It will cost between $10m and $15m according to Hihiaua Trust secretary Janet Hetaraka.

The theatre would be versatile enough to handle many community events, Mrs Hetaraka said.

But the priority for the Trust was kapa haka.

"We have many kapa haka events throughout the year and there is no adequate venue.

"They have to use stadiums or gyms and there's never enough space for the audience. What we've designed is an indoor/outdoor stage, so we can have thousands of people seated outside on the grass with the stage open to the outdoors."

The Hihiaua Trust will apply for resource consent for the theatre in the next fortnight. It hopes to persuade the council to back the project with a $5m grant.

If it succeeds, it would be able to apply to other charities for the rest of the funds, Mrs Hetaraka said.

The Whangārei District Council has long had $10 million budgeted in its long term plan for a theatre but developers planning to build a hotel across the river are also pitching for council funding for a conference centre.

Another Hihiaua Trust member, lawyer Ryan Welsh, said the Hihiaua theatre was more in line with what the city needed.

"Not to say that a hotel wouldn't provide jobs but we are looking to showcase Māori culture and also be inclusive of the whole community in terms of its use."

Both developments are intended to work in with the Hundertwasser Art Centre now under construction at the other end of town.

The Hihiaua Trust said the cultural centre would complement the Hundertwasser, which included a Māori fine arts' gallery.

Hihiaua trustees held off applying for council and charitable funding for several years, to let the $28m Hundertwasser take precedent.

But the trust and the hotel developers could yet be in for a wait.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said the council was in the process of developing a new events and venues strategy and would not be handing out any money until it was decided where the venue gaps were in the city.

- By Radio New Zealand's Lois Williams

Boats moored at Whangarei Marina in the town basin. Northland, New Zealand, NZ.
Whangārei's Town Basin. (file picture). Source: istock.com


Investigation underway after truckie films himself abusing cyclist on Dunedin road

A Dunedin company is investigating the actions of one of its employees after he filmed himself abusing a cyclist and posted it online.

The man shot a video of himself riding in the passenger seat of a truck, and can be heard urging the driver to hit the cyclist.

"Run him over Greg mate ... do it," the man says.

"Out of the way you f****** cabbage!"

The man then posted the video onto a local social media page, the Otago Daily Times reports, and another member of the page provided it to the newspaper.

A spokesperson for the trucking company, Clearwater Civil, said he is appalled.

"The video is extremely embarrassing," he told the Times.

"The allegation is viewed very seriously and there is an employment investigation under way.''

The spokesperson said he was happy to see that the driver appeared to have actually ignored his the man's words and given the cyclist plenty of room.

Who's in the right? Takapuna home owner building a wall right over popular beachfront walkway - but it's their land

A wall being constructed along the shore in Auckland's Takapuna is dividing residents, and opinions.

The wall in question, half-finished, is situated at the edge of 19 Brett Ave, and is technically located on private property.

Boundary data for 19 Brett Ave shows that the property protrudes down on to the shoreline.
Boundary data for 19 Brett Ave shows that the property protrudes down on to the shoreline. Source: LINZ/Screenshot

However, the wall would make a well-used walkway between Takapuna and Milford Beaches unusable, which has led to outcries from residents.

Colleen Bergin told Stuff she fears she'll no longer be able to walk her dog along the coast, and other residents have also voiced concerns.

"It's one thing to over-intensify building throughout the city and it's another thing to ruin an iconic walk because of one person's demands," Ms Bergin said.

A graphic showing the location of 19 Brett Ave, in relation to the eastern coastline of Takapuna in Auckland.
A graphic showing the location of 19 Brett Ave, in relation to the eastern coastline of Takapuna in Auckland. Source: Google Maps

"Council should be bargaining with these people to preserve this walkway and make it better."

After Stuff made queries to Auckland Council about the wall, it halted construction on August 1, saying a further resource consent would be needed, which is currently being processed.

With the wall in place, walkers would be forced to go further down the rocks, which Ms Bergin said could deter walkers, or even lead to injuries.

James Hunter of Christopher Hay Construction, who is in charge of building the wall, told Stuff previously his client had gone to great lengths to make the wall aesthetically pleasing, and that most people didn't realise the pathway actually crosses private property.

Mr Hunter said the owners are overseas, and do not want to comment.

A graphic showing the location of 19 Brett Ave in Takapuna.
A graphic showing the location of 19 Brett Ave in Takapuna. Source: Google Streetview/Google Maps/1 NEWS Graphic