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

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Japan and NZ join forces to help Pacific

Japan and New Zealand are joining forces to speed up assistance to the Pacific region.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the strategic partnership aimed to ensure funding for development goes a lot further.

Mr Peters has had talks in Wellington with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on teaming up to ensure decisions made don't get caught up in bureaucracy.

But he said how this would be done was still a matter for discussion.

"It would mean that a country that knows more about the Pacific than any other country - namely New Zealand - would play a key role in that and we're asking countries like Japan and elsewhere to acknowledge that."

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the two countries would be linking up at various levels including ocean security and enhancing connectivity

"The Pacific island region is strategically important for both Japan and New Zealand," he said.

Japan would also like to co-operate with New Zealand to resolve the problem of Pacific island debt, the Foreign Minister said.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS


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John Armstrong's opinion: Simon Bridges would've been castigated as incompetent if he didn't expose Jami-Lee Ross as leaker

The confirmation — surprise, surprise — that indeed it was Jami-Lee Ross who leaked embarrassing details of Simon Bridges' travel expenses to the media has vindicated the widely-scorned decision by the National Party leader to hunt down the culprit forthwith.

Simon Bridges has copped an inordinate, unfair and just plain wrong amount of stick for what his many critics have deemed to be amateur-hour handling of something which should have been brushed aside with barely a moment’s thought such was its insignificance in the grand scheme of things. And even more so given the information in question was about to be released by authorities into the public domain anyway.

In keeping alive something which succeeded in only shifting the focus away from matters which Bridges and his colleagues should have been talking about, the former poured more petrol on the funeral pyre that has been under construction since the opinion polls indicated that the replacement for Sir Bill English was not capturing the public’s imagination.

The Opposition leader launched an inquiry into the leak of his expenses earlier this year. Source: 1 NEWS

Even though he is not to blame for the two months that it has taken consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers to complete their investigation of the leak, Bridges should have expected the exercise would take far longer to complete than initially envisaged. That is always the case.

The flow of events has all added up to more ammunition for those who have convinced themselves that Bridges not only lacks the personal characteristics that a modern-day leader needs to win elections, he is also in deficit when it comes to the possession of the necessary political skills.

That those who feel that way are less forthcoming when it comes to declaring who exactly should replace him, that discrepancy has not diminished their desire that Bridges be dumped before election season returns.

If there is any failure of judgment on Bridges’ part, however, it is more evident on the part of Bridges’ detractors.

When it came to managing his way out of the kind of mess in which National is currently donkey-deep, Sir John Key unfailingly applied what he considered to be a golden rule: namely think hard about the counter-factual. In other words, assess what was likely to happen if a possible course of action was not taken.

The material leaked by Ross might have been of little significance. The act of leaking was another matter entirely. It was gross disloyalty on the part of the Botany MP and now ex-spokesman on transport and infrastructure matters.

That is something no leader can tolerate. It is something no caucus can tolerate. When the source of a leak remains unidentified, trust between caucus members inevitably suffers. The caucus cannot function properly. The freedom to discuss matters of crucial import to a political party is inevitably constrained by the fear that what is regarded as confidential will end up online or on the front pages of the following day’s newspapers.

Both Bridges and Ross have now made it patently obvious that the working relationship between National’s leader and his seventh-ranked MP had broken down completely since the former secured the party’s top job back in February.

Ross might have been No 7 in the caucus, but he was clearly No 1 on list of those suspected of possibly being the leaker.

Had Bridges taken the advice of his critics and chosen not to expose the source of the leak, he would have been pilloried by those same critics had Ross repeated the act of treachery.

Bridges would have been portrayed as weak. He would have been castigated as incompetent.

Bridges could not gamble on Ross not leaking again. Given Ross’s state of mind, the risks involved in doing nothing were exponentially increased.

Bridges would have realised that at some point he was going to have to confront Ross. To delay that day of reckoning was to damage both himself and the party.

As it is, Bridges is paying a price for simply doing what had to be done.

Voters will be wondering whether Ross was operating alone or in cahoots with others. They will wonder whether Bridges was being straight with them with his previous insistence that there was no connection between the leak investigation and Ross taking an extended leave of absence from Parliament for "personal health issues".

They will wonder whether this episode speaks of what life is really like in the National caucus and whether it is a veritable vipers’ nest of over-sized egos and over-inflated ambition united only by its members’ insatiable greed for power.

Above all, it will leave voters wondering just how robust is Bridges’ grip on the leadership.

The voters will not have to wonder where Ross now stands in all of this, however. He won’t have any standing. It is odds-on will be expelled from the caucus and will subsequently have his membership of the party rescinded by the board of the National Party very shortly thereafter.

Anything less punitive than that course of action would risk being interpreted by friend and foe alike as a vote of no confidence in Bridges.

National would then be looking for a new leader. While there is still much uncertainty as to how the following days might play out before this messy distraction has finally run its ugly course, that is one thing which is most definitely not going to happen.

Jessica Mutch McKay says Simon Bridges faces a "long, drawn out and embarrassing process to try and get rid of him". Source: 1 NEWS

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Four facing charges after massive illegal pāua bust

A massive illegal haul of pāua, mostly undersized, has been uncovered in Taranaki following an operation by the police and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Fishery officers and police discovered four people with a total of 736 pāua, 703 of which were undersized after they were stopped at a checkpoint.

A vehicle and a set net have been seized. They now face serious charges.

The Taranaki region has a lower minimum size for pāua because the shellfish are naturally small and never reach the minimum legal size that applies to the rest of the country.

Fishery officers have returned all of the shellfish to the sea.

rnz.co.nz

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Paua Source: rnz.co.nz


Kiwi and Aussie police dogs fighting it out to be crowned the best in Australasia

The trans-Tasman rivalry between New Zealand and Australia will hit another gear this week, with both nations' police dogs fighting it out for the title of Australasia's best.

New Zealand's Paw Blacks are looking to defend their title, with the Australian team in Wellington looking to pinch the Kiwi's crown.

However, for those in the industry, the competition is more about setting standards than trans-Tasman oneupmanship.

"It's around benchmarking we all work together very closely with the Australians so for each state and each dog section it's just seeing how we are and of course there's a friendly rivalry as well," NZ dog coordinator Todd Southall told 1 NEWS.

For the competition though, the Australians are looking to restore some pride, with the likes of the Kiwis and Silver Ferns claiming success over their arch rivals already this week.

"All we've coped since we got here is mentions of the sporting prowess of New Zealand at the moment so we are looking to maybe right that in some very small way," Australia's Craig Charles said.

The top dog will be revealed on Thursday night.

For the first time in 20 years New Zealand’s playing host to the trans-Tasman canine competition. Source: 1 NEWS


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