Rebuilding confidence


Subbies had to be talked into not removing their gear.

Two contractors on Queens­town’s troubled Kawarau Falls Station development fear for their staff.

“Staff are the biggest concern,” says Warwick Stalker, whose RHE Mechanical stands to lose turnover of $2.5 million.

Bank of Scotland (BOS) last week appointed receivers to the billion-dollar hotel and resort project – which is about 70 per cent through stage one construction, employing about 500 staff.

Receivers promise only two weeks of paid work while they go through the books.

Stalker says he’s “wound right up” for the project, employing 24 staff.

“It’s been quite a battle to get them here and get their accommodation set up.

“Some had been out of work or wanted to get back into the industry.”

It’s been “a bit stressful” for newcomers: “We’ve been asked a lot of questions.”

He’ll be “devastated” if receivers pull the plug on Kawarau Falls.

Rilean Construction boss Steve McLean says he and co-director Trevor Meikle have also “spent a lot of effort to try and rebuild confidence” among their 25 Kawarau Falls staff.

“Job security is in the foremost of most people’s minds and we had to do this straight up.”

He and Meikle had one-on-one meetings with their team last week, followed by a drinks shout.

McLean: “I think it’s that stigma with the word ‘receivership’ – automatically everyone thought the worse and that there was going to be a lock-down.”

Some subbies had to be talked into not removing gear, he says.

With the high cost of closing-in the construction site to prevent deterioration, McLean says BOS may as well instead bankroll completion of stage one – due this summer.

“The whole town should be concerned that possibly that decision’s going to be made by somebody in London who doesn’t really [understand].”

Two Naylor Love carpenters spoken to this week are both positive stage one will be finished.

If not it would be “a drama”, Lyall Smillie says, noting his co-workers aren’t even discussing the future over smoko despite many having $600-a-week home loans.

After last week’s initial shock, Cromwell-based father of four Dennis Shippers is unfazed – even with a mortgage costing $450 a week.

Shippers has been through his share of drama already – after leaving his native South Africa in 2005, a gang ransacked and occupied his house there: “It cost me a lot of money to get them out.”

Plumber Robert Gjaja is also banking on stage one being finished: “We’ll feel a big pinch if it doesn’t, like I think everyone else will.”

  • Auckland-based Kawarau Falls developer Nigel McKenna visited his troubled construction site last Saturday.