Black Xmas


Tradesman fumes over $192,000 dead debt.

Christmas won’t bring joy to a Queenstown drainage contractor crippled by a $192,000 debt.

John “Blowy” Walsh claims his company Just Dig It is owed for two months’ work on the stalled Autoline Motel redevelopment in Dublin Street.

This week in the Christchurch High Court, he tried to liquidate development company Not Just Jo to get his share of whatever assets are remaining.

But other creditors opposed Walsh’s application and Associate Judge Tony Christiansen has rolled the matter over until February so Christchurch-based Not Just Jo can lodge a repayment proposal.

Mountain Scene understands 69 companies are owed $1.35 million.

Walsh was among several local tradesmen who walked off the site in September as payments dried up.

He alleges he didn’t get a cent for two months’ work – his only payment was an $8000 cheque that bounced.

Walsh is scathing about Not Just Jo co-owner Kevin McGoverne: “I’ll bet he and his wife will have a good Christmas.

“Just because he hasn’t managed his financing right, we get kicked in the teeth.”

Candidly, Walsh admits the debt “nearly put me on my arse”.

He’s paid $40,000 out of his own pocket and gone to suppliers seeking 60-day credit: “It’s been a mission, I’ve had to go to people and say I’m in the shit.”

He’s sold his son’s car for $27,000 to make ends meet – “that didn’t go down too well” – and pays himself just $400 a week.

“I and my boys have had to work f…ing hard.”

He’s even gone to the West Coast for work.

Walsh sympathises with other tradesmen also owed big sums: “A lot of small businesses cannot withstand this hammering.”

He’s just about flagged his debt away but is pursuing court action as a matter of principle.

“I’ve had enough of doing the work and not getting paid.”

Walsh also blames the banks because the motel was only a week from reopening when contractors walked away:

“They should have given money [to Not Just Jo] to finish it off and at least had a saleable item.”

Since then, a number of angry creditors have seized unpaid goods like beds, mattresses and glass balustrades.

Meanwhile, Christchurch businessman Mark Meates’s Elite Property Holdings last Friday bought Autoline for about $4 million with a view to completing the redevelopment, unit-titling it and repaying creditors.

Walsh is dubious there’ll be anything left over for creditors.

He also thinks Meates will struggle to find local tradesmen prepared to complete the work – “it’s a small-town scenario, locals talk”.

Meates says he’s had a good response from tradesmen but admits “the cost of completing is going up day by day”.

He reveals he’s a Not Just Jo creditor too, but for work in Christchurch rather than Queenstown.

“When there was a liquidation proceeding issued against Not Just Jo, the bank told [McGoverne] he had to get out – either sell it or they’d sell it.”

He doesn’t think creditors would have got anything if Walsh’s liquidation application had succeeded.

McGoverne, claims Meates, still has an incentive for the work to be finished: “He’s still on the hook for a personal guarantee over my loan.”

Meates says it’s “pretty sad” the development stalled just before completion: “I’ve seen a pile of reservations they’ve turned away for the last three months – if they’d just got it finished, they probably would have had $150,000 of business through there that obviously wouldn’t have got everyone paid everything…but certainly would have got a lot of people paid something.”