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Housing work debacle

Friday, 9th March, 2012

DISPUTE: The Eco Village teachers’ housing project is behind schedule amid claims that local contractors and suppliers are owed thousands of dollars. DISPUTE: The Eco Village teachers’ housing project is behind schedule amid claims that local contractors and suppliers are owed thousands of dollars.

Dismay as government wipes its hands

By Andrew Robertson

Broken Hill businesses are owed tens of thousands of dollars in overdue payments from a NSW taxpayer-funded teacher housing project that has fallen months behind schedule.

The 12-unit Eco Village under construction in Sulphide Street has been beset by delays amid claims of non payment levelled at the main subcontractor, Cavalier Homes Brisbane.

Contractors and suppliers contacted by the BDT said they were unsure if they would be paid for materials or work performed at the site dating back to August or September last year.

One builder, who didn’t want to be named, claimed he was owed $31,000 and was now chasing Cavalier Brisbane which has since been kicked off the project and has gone to ground, through the NSW Security of Payment Act.

Another builder, Mario Timperio, told the BDT he invoiced Cavalier Brisbane $45,000 for work that included erecting frames for six units last year but that more than $11,000 was still outstanding.

“We’re only a small business and we can’t afford to write that off,” said Mr Timperio who claims he walked off the site up to three times last year because progress payments were not being made.

Mr Timperio, who is also pursuing Cavalier through the Security of Payment Act, said the fact the project was State Government funded made it worse.

“It’s just not right. They just don’t care,” he said.

“It has put a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve done the work and I deserve to be paid.”

A number of business owners who have been chasing Cavalier Brisbane for money told the BDT that representatives from the company were evasive or dismissive when contacted about paying their billst.

“At the moment I’m not getting any excuses at all because I can’t get on to them,” said Jamie Bolton, who owns Bolton’s Precision Engineering.

Mr Bolton claimed he was yet to receive $13,500 from Cavalier for brackets his business supplied and fitted.

He said the experience had taught him a valuable lesson.

“Knowing who you deal with and their background ... that is, I think, the lesson I’ve gotten out of this.”

Touted as a drawcard that will help entice teachers to Broken Hill, the Eco Village was supposed to be completed by mid to late March but has fallen behind schedule.

Albury-based Zauner Construction won the tender for the multi-million dollar NSW Teacher Housing Authority project and then sub-contracted the job to Cavalier Brisbane.

No-one from Cavalier Brisbane could be contacted this week.

In a statement to the BDT, Zauner said Cavalier was no longer involved and added that it was not responsible for any of Cavalier’s unpaid invoices or accounts.

“Zauner has at all times acted in accordance with its contractual responsibilities with Cavalier,” the statement from the company said.

“Any disputes between Cavalier and its own suppliers and subcontractors are not the responsibility of Zauner.”

The NSW Department of Finance and Services said any payment problems were between the companies and businesses involved.

 “The department cannot comment on the financial position of third parties and has no authority to intervene in these matters,” a spokesman said.

“The department is working with the builder to minimise any delays caused by the termination of Zauner’s sub-contract with Cavalier Homes Brisbane.”

But another Broken Hill business owed money said the State Government had a “moral” responsibility to ensure businesses were paid the money they were owed.

Globe Timber owner Fisk Negas said the government should have ensured money it was releasing for the project was being used to pay the contractors and suppliers.

“The contracts haven’t been administered properly,” he said.

“Suppliers and contractors should be guaranteed payment before payment (goes to) Zauner and Cavalier.

“What hope have you got if a government department comes to Broken Hill to do this work and backs away from its moral responsibility?”

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