St Hilliers creditors’ meeting set for May 25 as hundreds of contractors still await payment on projects

The first creditors meeting for the collapsed construction arm of St Hilliers has been set for May 25 as accusations continue to fly over decisions to award government contracts to the Sydney-based property and construction group just months before it collapsed.

A spokesperson for administrators Trent Hancock and Michael Hird of Moore Stephens Sydney Corporate Recovery Group says the meeting will be held in Sydney but could not provide details about the number of creditors or how much they are owed.

Creditors will include hundreds of building contractors, many of which are small business operators who have worked on St Hilliers projects around the country and have not been paid for their work.

Yesterday the administrators met with major clients, but smaller contractors are yet to receive any reassurances.

At the same time the NSW’s Barry O’Farrell government continues to come under heavy fire for awarding tenders to St Hilliers to take over 13 public housing projects in Wollongong, the Hunter, Shoalhaven and Coffs Harbour worth $25 million just two months ago.

St Hilliers won the tender to complete the projects following the collapse of previous contractor, Sydney-based building company Perle, in February last year.

Embattled NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce says the federal government should investigate the collapse of the construction business and has accused St Hilliers of using the voluntary administration as “cynical attempt” to avoid its debts.

However, Pearce has in turn been accused of passing the buck after approving St Hilliers as the winning bidder for the public housing projects.

Pearce has defended the appointment of St Hilliers and says the NSW government performed two financial assessments of the company before it was contracted to complete the NSW projects.

He claims that “no one at all raised with me any issue about St Hilliers’ financial position”.

Among those caught out by the collapse is Lake Macquarie landscaper Matt Corfield, who worked on a public housing project in Teralba in the Hunter and is owed more than $6,000 by St Hilliers and a further $10,000 from Perle.

Corfield told the Newcastle Herald he had received “an iron-clad guarantee” from St Hilliers he would be paid because “there was no way the government could afford the embarrassment of a second collapse”.

"Now this has happened. They owe me $6,732. It was supposed to be a stimulus job, but it’s reverse stimulus because it could put us out of business.”

Corfield has three full-time employees, a full-time apprentice and a casual worker, who he says could all end up on the dole as a result of the collapse.

The Coffs Coast Advocate reports that Coffs Harbour tradesmen working on a public housing project are owed $660,000 and like Corfield have been caught up in the second collapse of a government-appointed building contractor on the same project.

 


 

Yesterday, administrators announced that four St Hilliers projects – two commercial projects in Sydney and mining projects for BHP and Xstrata – had reopened but as many 26 remain closed leaving up to 1,000 contractors out of work and not yet paid.

The four projects have a combined value of $31 million but still leave the value of stalled projects at between $300 million to $500 million based on different media estimates.

It’s difficult to calculate the value of current St Hilliers projects, as all links on the company’s website lead to the administrators’ statement – archived press releases are inaccessible.

In a strange coincidence Greg Pearce’s website https://www.gregpearce.com.au is also not working and automatically redirects to https://www.myelectorate.com.au/.

Yesterday the administrators, Trent Hancock and Michael Hird of Moore Stephens Sydney Corporate Recover Group, along with St Hilliers executive chairman Tim Casey and his team met major clients.

The Department of Defence has $173 million of work with St Hilliers.

A spokesman said it was investigating options with the administrators that would deliver the “best outcomes for all parties as soon as possible”.

But the cause of the problem, the need for an additional $150 million in funding for the Ararat Prison extension, is unresolved.

Victorian Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh says the larger players in the project’s consortium, including Commonwealth Bank and Bilfinger Berger, should deliver the Ararat Prison and pay all contractors and sub-contractors.

“It is incumbent on them to deliver on their contractual obligations,” he said on a visit to Ararat.

He said the government was committed to the project but played down any government intervention.

“The best use of taxpayers’ money is to enforce the terms of that contract,” he said. “The most important thing is we desperately need the 350 beds as soon as possible.”

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

Comments

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?