2 Aug 2018

Ebert receivership: Dairy plants press on despite construction company collapse

10:50 am on 2 August 2018

The company set to build two big dairy plants is vowing to press on despite its main contracting firm going out of business.

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Photo: RNZ

Both projects have been commissioned by the listed dairy company Synlait.

One is in the Waikato town of Pokeno, the other is the South Island settlement of Dunsandel.

Between them, they are worth $375 million.

They are supposed to be erected by Ebert Construction, under a sub contract with the Swiss-Swedish food packaging and processing giant, Tetra Pak.

But Ebert has gone into receivership, owing about $40 million, and work has stopped on both projects.

Synlait said nothing about Ebert's troubles, merely pointing out in a statement that its contract was with Tetra Pak.

It said it remained confident in its relationship with Tetra Pak, and declined to comment further.

However, Tetra Pak told RNZ News it was determined to finish both projects, though it conceded this would be a challenge.

The company's managing director for this region, Andrew Pooch, declined to be formally interviewed.

But he said Tetra Pak had been doing business with Synlait for a long time and its goal was to complete the projects on time.

Mr Pooch said he had been speaking to the receivers and had some contingency plans in place to ensure work carried on.

He admitted this would be difficult, as Ebert had developed expertise in building food-processing plants that could not be easily found elsewhere.

One possibility would be for another company to hire the skilled workers who were left stranded by the collapse of Ebert.

It might also be possible for one construction firm to build the Pokeno plant and another to do Dunsandel, in order to make the most of their capacity.

Mr Pooch told RNZ the Dunsandel plant was half finished, but at Pokeno only earthworks and some foundations had been laid.

Dunsandel was expected to be finished early 2019, while Pokeno in 2019-2020. Tetra Pak said it aimed to meet those deadlines.

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