Mainzeal subcontractors locked out

TIM DONOGHUE AND KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 12:18 07/02/2013
Victoria University contractors
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ

LOCK DOWN: PWC receivers meet with workers outside the construction site at Victoria University.

Reece Nicol
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ
IN AND OUT: Reece Nicol was the only worker allowed to access the Mainzeal construction site at Victoria University today, after he left his passport and wallet onsite.

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Anxious subcontractors have been blocked from accessing Mainzeal building sites at Victoria University and the Kapiti Aquatic Centre this morning.

The futures of the two major projects are now uncertain after Mainzeal Property and Construction - one of the country's biggest construction firms - went into receivership yesterday.

The company has been upgrading the centre of Victoria University's Kelburn campus. The "campus hub" project included a new building and outdoor area, along with the refurbishment of three existing buildings.

Mainzeal is also building Kapiti's $21 million aquatic centre in Paraparaumu.

This morning a security firm employed by receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers called police to the fully fenced-off Kelburn Pde site when tradesmen arrived wanting to retrieve their tools.

About 100 contractors and sub-contractors on the site met with PWC's Neil Phipps, who told them the site had been closed down and they would not be allowed to access it until they had completed a form detailing exactly what tools they had on site and precisely where they were located.

"Without the authorisation of one of the receivers or one of our managers, no person will be allowed to enter the site," Phipps told the frustrated tradesmen.

Phipps said he would do everything possible to help the men get their tools back. But a number of tradesmen expressed frustrations at being unable to get on to the site immediately as they needed their tools to get on with their working lives.

Pukerua Bay stonemason Graham Mann, who had been working on cobblestones on Waitangi Day, said he had approximately $2000 worth of gear he wanted to retrieve. 

"I'm gutted that we read about this receivership in the media first. I was working here all day yesterday and was told nothing. We've had no information about this receivership at all," Mann said before this morning's meeting.

Khandallah builder Rob Andrews said he was mightily relieved to be sub-contracted to Key Skills Recruitment rather than directly to Mainzeal.

"This time round I have not lost a lot. It's only a few days wages at this stage. I need to get my tools."

A builder with 40 years experience behind him, Andrews said he had been burnt by major contractors going bust on three occasions in his working life.

This time he just wanted his tools back.

"This is low stuff ... Mainzeal don't provide our tools."

Key Skills Recruitment director Ailsa McGavin helped arrange the meeting with representatives of the receivers this morning. 

She was sympathetic to the plight her contracted workers found themselves in.

"If these guys cannot get their tools, they cannot work. They need to get their tools back so they can move on with their lives," McGavin said.

One tradesman did manage to get on site: carpenter Reece Nicol, who explained to Phipps that he had left his wallet, credit cards and passport hidden on the site near his tool box. 

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He was escorted on site by a security guard and returned from the site with his wallet and personal documents in hand.

"At least they were reasonable about this," Nicol said. 

In Kapiti, where workers were also barred from retrieving tools and machinery, PWC's Nadine Williams told about a dozen contractors gathered outside security and safety fencing, protected by security guards at the entrance, that the site was shut down for two days and an inventory of tools and equipment was being prepared.

"There are some people owed a significant amount of money. The Mainzeal employers are undertaking an inventory on site. I am not expecting you guys to be able name every screw, hammer and nail you have. 

"We are going to put everything together in a pile. We have to make sure if there one compressor, there are not five guys claiming one compressor.

Jacobs Construction spokesman Lance Jacobs said he was owed "a lot of money". He had four men over from Holland to work on the aquatic centre's moveable floor and a contractor from Turkey to work on the hydroslide.

"They are all sitting in a motel and we are up in the air. It is the Kapiti ratepayers who will suffer," Jacobs said.

PCL Asphalt and Civil Construction Specialists spokesman Luke Lee said the company was about half way through the aquatic centre's $1 million car park project. He had 12 men working on the project and was owed money.

"There is nothing much we can do but remain positive and hope the Kapiti Coast District Council will complete it," Lee said.

"We are a bit disappointed about how the staff have been treated through the process. They will lose their jobs, some their businesses and others their houses as well. I would not want to take on another job like this. When you go with the third largest construction company in New Zealand you would like to think you are safe, especially working for a council as well," he said.

Kapiti Coast District Council said the aquatic centre project was 85 per cent complete, seven weeks short of completion.

Council staff would met with PWC representatives in Wellington later today. 

"It would make sense to do whatever is necessary to just push it and finish it. That is certainly what we will be discussing with the receivers," council chief executive Pat Dougherty said.

Parent company Mainzeal Group is not in receivership.

- The Dominion Post

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