Bust builder’s big debt

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A small Queenstown building company has crashed, leaving subbies seething, houses half-finished and debts likely to top $1 million.

VHH Ltd - which trades as Vernon Henry Homes - was liquidated early this month by owner Chris Cerecke, whose associated company Space Rooms was also dragged under.

Over 130 creditors, including about 50 small to medium local firms, are owed $1.08m by the two companies.

The 110 unsecured creditors look almost certain to whistle for their money.

Arrowtown Engineering owner Alistair Chalmers is owed about $15,000: “I’m not happy.”

Chalmers says he’s a friend of Cerecke’s - who’s believed to be in Christchurch.

Steve Walak of Steve’s Joinery is another subbie caught - for $16,000 - and it could have been worse: “I stopped supplying [Cerecke] about a year ago because he hadn’t paid his debts and I’m glad I wasn’t caught for more.”

Out of pocket by about $5000, Queenstown Concrete Grinding owner John Souter’s bitter: “It goes directly out of my pocket.”

Souter says the VHH jobs he’s been working on are unfinished “so hopefully [the owners] will come to the party and pay us”.

Mountain Scene learned of three unfinished houses affected by VHH’s collapse and contacted two owners.

Sydney equities analyst Paul McTaggart “still can’t believe” Cerecke’s firm has gone broke.

“VHH billed me - and I’ve paid for - around $200,000 of work/materials that haven’t been done,” he says.

“I’ll be working for a very long time to sort this one out.”

Auckland’s Terry Gaze contracted VHH to restore a historic 1880s Arrow Junction cottage.

“We’ve probably got half-way through,” Gaze says, adding he’s “completely disappointed and frustrated”.

Yet Gaze hasn’t suffered too much financially: “We’re pretty strict about paying on completion rather than in advance.”

However, two other VHH owner-clients he’s spoken to are well out of pocket, Gaze says.

Several subbies unpaid by VHH are now being paid directly by Gaze to complete his job.

In an interim report, liquidator Insolvency Management of Christchurch says VHH sole director Cerecke blames the crash on “lack of adequate working capital, deferred payments from clients and tight supplier terms that reduced the work volume”.

There are only a few saleable assets and a small number of collectable accounts.

VHH unsecured creditors are “unlikely” to get a cent, the liquidators say.

According to Companies Office records, a firm half-owned by Cerecke was self-liquidated in 2006, paying creditors 20 cents in the dollar.

Cerecke didn’t return Mountain Scene calls.

frank@scene.co.nz