Wellington jobs safe despite collapse

19:52, May 28 2012
Aquaheat in Tawa employs about 180 people.

The jobs of about 480 commercial heating, cooling and air-conditioning workers at three Wellington companies look safe for now, despite the collapse of their Australian owner, engineering conglomerate Hastie Group.

The corporate failure sent ripples through light industry on the outskirts of big cities throughout Australia and New Zealand, including Tawa, where Hastie company Aquaheat is based, and Seaview, Petone, which is home to sister companies Cowley Refrigeration and Cowley Aquaheat.

Hastie employs 4500 workers in Australia, of whom 2700 have been stood down for 28 days, according to Scott Hinton of its Australian administrator PPB Advisory.

That was after administrators and receivers moved in to try to recover estimated debts of A$500 million.

The Sydney Morning Herald described the corporate collapse as a major blow to Australia's federal Labor Government.

An Auckland receiver, Andrew Grenfell, has been appointed to Hastie's New Zealand holding company, but he said it was "business as usual" for Aquaheat and the Cowley companies and there was no intention of putting them into receivership.


Mr Grenfell said his understanding was that the Wellington businesses were successful, and his assumption was that they would be sold to new owners as going concerns.

It was too soon to speculate whether they might return to New Zealand ownership, but anything was possible in a sale.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union organiser Mark James said about 100 of its members were employed by the conglomerate in New Zealand.

There had been good communication between the company's New Zealand arm and its workers, and no job losses, he said.

Aquaheat, which employs about 180 staff, posted a profit of $2.3m on sales of $44.3m in 2010, the last year for which results have been filed with the Companies Office. It has provided heating systems to the likes of Te Papa, Wellington Airport and Wellington Hospital.

Cowley Refrigeration provides fridges and chillers for supermarkets, dairies and restaurants, and posted a profit of $782,000 on sales of $50.6m in 2010. Together with Cowley Aquaheat, it is understood to employ about 300 staff.

Cowley is owned by Sydney-based Hastie company Austral Industries. Its receiver, McGrathNicol, said Austral was in the process of being sold before it was called in and it expected to quickly complete that process.

The Dominion Post