Lower Hutt firm lays off 15 staff

Hakes Marine is one of the few specialist grand prix race boat builders in New Zealand.
Hakes Marine is one of the few specialist grand prix race boat builders in New Zealand.

Lower Hutt boat builder and repair company Hakes Marine has been put into liquidation, laying off about 15 staff and moving some work to China, according to a former worker.

Hakes Marine is one of the few specialist grand prix race boat builders in New Zealand, a segment hard hit after the global financial crisis. The boats are top-end, hi-tech and fast, but become outdated in just a few years.

The total marine industry employs about 9000 people, with a large export sector.

Hakes Marine has recently built training catamarans for America's Cup syndicates, costing about $330,000 each.

Last year it built its first Kiwi FC yacht, Bodacious Dream, which was dropped into Wellington Harbour at the end of the year.

Companies Office files show Shepard Dunphy's Andrew Croad was appointed as liquidator on March 29. Croad was in meetings yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Hakes owner Paul Hakes could not be reached for comment either.

A former team leader/supervisor at Hakes, Christopher Earp, said Hakes was packing boat building moulds and taking them to China, with four staff to set up an operation making America's Cup training boats, a move he described as "terrible", especially the way it was done.

"They told us on Thursday to pack up our tools and be gone by the end of the day. There are people with mortgages left in the lurch ... there was no warning it was going to happen. It was a shock for us," he said.

About 15 staff had lost their jobs, with no redundancy payout, and workers had also missed out on their last week's wages and holiday pay, Earp said.

"There are no other boat builders in Wellington, so it is a shame. There are a lot of people upset and boat builders trying to find work," he said, adding that Hakes had built "great boats" for Wellington, creating hi-tech racing yachts in carbon fibre materials.

Earp said there was now a hole in the market for someone to repair boats and he hoped someone would set up to replace Hakes.

Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield said yesterday that the industry faced tough international trading in the past three years: "Not unlike any other construction business like housing or apartments."

"There are still about 70 or 80 brand new boats going into the New Zealand market every week," Busfield said, down from 120 a week five years ago.

The Dominion Post