Two hundred and fifty jobs are on the line with the news major construction firm Arrow International is in financial trouble.
Speculation over Arrow's financial position have been circulating for several months.
The company today announced it has gone into voluntary administration, prompting dozens of subscontractors to abandon building sites.
In a statement, the board said a recent adjudication had left the company with "no choice" than to take action.
"This is not the outcome we wanted or expected, but in light of a recent adjudicator's decision, we had no choice but to take this course of action. We were greatly surprised by the adjudication in favour of another contractor in a disputed Auckland project, and the financial obligation attached to the decision left Arrow with insufficient cashflow to meet its day-to-day operating costs.
"We have managed the tough trading conditions which have stressed the entire sector, but this unexpected result has affected solvency to the point that we could not sustain trading as we have been."
The company said many of the firm's larger projects were complete, or near completion, and where possible the work will be done.
Founders Ron Anderson and Bob Foster said directors would work with voluntary administrators to minimise disruption and stabilise the business.
Administrator BDO said construction sites will be closed temporarily while they assess the position and meet with staff and creditors.
Arrow is the lead contractor on the multi-storey apartment block on Dixon Street, among other projects.
Two major Wellington projects were virtually deserted by 4pm when subcontractors walked off sites run by Arrow.
Christopher Thompson, a crane operator with Smith Crane, was loading up the back of a ute in Dixon Street beneath the 20- storey apartment block
"We were told to clear out all our gear just in case ... a bit sad," he said.
The company was getting all its gear out "except for the crane, we can't get that out".
He transferred to the job from Auckland and had hoped for four more months work.
"We heard bits and pieces from other contractors, they say, 'Oh, they might be opening up tomorrow or Monday'. But to be sure we just got told, get all our gear out."
The apartment block is at virtually full height but still covered in protective builders' wrap.
A dozen subbies in high-vis vests and hardhats were loading vans, utes and small trucks from plastering, electrical and plumbing firms in an access alley beside the building.
Alex Arnold of Select Interior Systems had been on the Dixon Street project for eight months.
"Everyone's just packing up and getting out so if the site's shut tomorrow, they can go on to another job," he said.
He had heard rumours of Arrow's ill-health all around the industry; and he heard that as early as tomorrow the building owner might take control over the site from Arrow.
"I'm not worried. There's plenty of work out there," Mr Arnold said.
Project director Mike Cole said he was not sure of Arrow's status but he did not expect a new contractor would be needed in place of Arrow.
However, he said alternative plans were in place if needed.
Katene Aupouri is most of the way through plastering work at a big refurbishment project on Courtenay Place.
He said he had not heard anything officially or even many rumours.
"All I heard was that everyone was leaving, like everyone wanted to leave the site and that was about it."
At least 20 senior Arrow employees gathered at the firm's Wellington headquarters in Taranaki Street this afternoon.
No-one is sure whether they will be back on site tomorrow or not.
Arrow was founded by Ron Anderson and Bob Foster in Dunedin in 1984.
Canterbury Earthquake Project
Arrow International is Southern Response's Canterbury Earthquake Project Partner.
In a written statement, Southern Response said customers could be reassured their claims would not be affected by the news Arrow International had filed for voluntary administration.
A spokesperson said the state-owned company worked closely with Arrow staff, who provided the project management service for customers, "and we do not anticipate any change in that regard".
"We will work with the administrators to ensure we can provide the same service to our clients as we currently are alongside the existing Arrow team, so it is business as usual for us and our customers.
"We do not anticipate that this will result in any delays or other notable changes for our customers."
It was always anticipated that as the number of claims went down, more of the project management service would be "brought back in house", the spokesperson told RNZ.
As of 31 January, there were 520 claims still in progress and nearly 8000 have already been settled.
Southern Response was set up by the government to be responsible for settling claims by AMI policyholders for Canterbury earthquake damage, which occurred before 5 April 2012 (the date AMI was sold to IAG).