Kia Kaha put into liquidation

Kia Kaha Clothing, whose distinctive designs have been worn by Michael Campbell, Prince William and Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, has collapsed into liquidation.

The High Court at Palmerston North has granted an Inland Revenue Department request to wind up the company over unpaid tax bills of $198,613.95.

The firm owns the intellectual property rights to the phrase kia kaha – forever strong. "Kia Kaha Christchurch" became a widely used mantra after the February 22 earthquake, and the company sold about 30,000 T-shirts to raise money for the recovery effort.

Liquidator John Fisk, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said it was too early to say whether the jobs of the company's four staff could be saved.

Liquidators would make decisions over the next two days about whether to complete existing orders, continue to trade, or sell the assets of the business, he said.

However, there was no doubt what the company's most valuable asset was: "The most significant value will relate to the brand, and we will look at how we will best preserve the value of that brand, and realise it."

The Upper Hutt company traces its origins back to selling T-shirts at Sunday markets, but it gained international recognition when Kiwi golfer Michael Campbell dumped Nike in favour of Kia Kaha in 2003. That saw the launch of the Cambo brand, which he wore on the way to winning the US Open in 2005.

More recently the company has focused on contract orders of uniforms for sports teams, while its website advertised the eponymous fashion label of its chief designer, Charmaine Love.

The application from the IRD was the second time creditors had applied to place the company into liquidation this year, after a dispute with Fijian manufacturer Jacks Garments over $33,000 was eventually settled out of court.

IRD prosecutor Ellen-Marie Carpenter said Kia Kaha had tried to put forward a repayment plan where it would give $100,000 upfront then pay $2000 a month.

But because previous plans had failed, this was rejected.

The company was insolvent, with total assets of $416,000 and liabilities of $2.5 million.

"The [IRD] does not have the confidence it would keep up with any repayment plan," Ms Carpenter said. The unpaid tax was made up of $137,398.68 in GST, $34,968.83 in PAYE, and $20,546.03 in child support payments.

Nobody from Kia Kaha appeared in court and director Dan Love was unavailable for comment.

The Dominion Post