Gympie contractors and suppliers are in limbo following the appointment of administrators at Camp Kerr.
Gympie contractors and suppliers are in limbo following the appointment of administrators at Camp Kerr. Renee Pilcher

Camp Kerr lockdown

GYMPIE contractors and suppliers could lose more than $1million following a lockdown at Camp Kerr yesterday and the voluntary appointment of administrators to St Hilliers Construction.

St Hilliers won the contract to carry out millions of dollars in building work at the army training base near Tin Can Bay as part of a $100m-plus refurbishment.

Its major local contractor, Pat Hogan Electrical Gympie branch, as well as PHE's four sub-contractors, all found themselves locked out of the site yesterday morning following announcement of the administrators.

PHE manager Geoff Lobegeier said before leaving Gympie yesterday afternoon to attend Mr Hogan's funeral in New South Wales there was little he could do but wait and see what emerged from the creditors' meeting scheduled to take place some time in the next nine days.

Spokesman for the administrators Justin Kirkwood said he wasn't sure exactly when or where that meeting would occur.

An upset Mr Lobegeier said he had contacted all of his subcontractors and suppliers to let them know what had happened.

Gympie businesses affected include John Buckley Electrical, Haymans Electrical, L and H Electrical, Sherriff Electrical and Coates Hire, plus smaller operators working for other contractors.

Most of the sub-contractors were able to find another way into Camp Kerr yesterday to retrieve their tools and machinery, though the gates stayed locked.

Mr Lobegeier said he was heartened by the fact the Camp Kerr project was a government job and there were securities in place to cover subcontractors. And because it was a government job, if Hilliers falls over a new builder will be appointed.

"They are not about to not finish the job," he said.

A statement released by the administrators yesterday said an associated company, St Hilliers Ararat, is part of a consortium contracted to undertake a $350 million expansion of the Ararat Prison in Victoria. St Hilliers Ararat has been placed into liquidation.

St Hilliers Construction has gone into voluntary administration due to exposure under guarantees for debts of St Hilliers Ararat relating to the Ararat Prison project.

"Negotiations over several months between the Ararat Prison equity investors and its bankers in conjunction with the state of Victoria have failed to reach a definitive agreement for additional funding of $150 million," the administrators said.

"The St Hilliers Group could not allow further debts to be incurred without adequate funding. As a consequence, the Group determined that the only prudent course of action was to cease work on the Ararat project and place St Hilliers Construction into voluntary administration. The administrators will be seeking to complete viable projects once they assess the position of each of the projects."

St Hilliers Group executive chairman Tim Casey said the action was regrettable but the company had exhausted all possible avenues to recapitalise the construction business and find a solution to the significant cost and time overruns on the Ararat Project.

"We will now work actively and constructively with the administrator and all stakeholders to continue all viable projects and to find a way to restructure the construction business going forward. For the rest of the St Hilliers Group it remains business as usual."

Gympie Times


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