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Nuplex Contractors’ Conference - Peters Speech

16 August 2001

(Speech by Rt Hon Winston Peters to the Nuplex Contractors’ Conference, 16 August 2001,11:30 am, Armitage Hotel Tauranga)

Welcome to Tauranga.

Whilst you are here don’t hesitate to indulge in some retail therapy, stay for a while, see the sites and boost the local economy.

It is fitting that you, the Nuplex contractors, are holding your conference here. After all this city, and the entire western Bay of Plenty is experiencing a prolonged building boom, and an influx of people coming here seeking a better lifestyle.

At one stage in the last few years there were 70 people moving to Tauranga every week. And a large proportion of new developments and houses use your products.

Tauranga is the hub of the horticultural industry, and the agricultural and natural resources industry. Many of your products and services are used in those very same ventures. Nuplex, afterall specialise in developing systems and products for dairy and fruit processing.

And plentiful in the Bay is fruit!

Decades ago a wise Parliament passed legislation on liens protection. In the era of Rogernomics and the grand new kiwi experiment that law was repealed. That action was plain irresponsible and stupid. That is why New Zealand First is supporting the Construction Contracts Bill otherwise known as “The Hartners Bill”.

The Bill has been referred to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. Submissions closed on 8th of August.

Even before the collapse of Hartner’s, owing $29.6 Million to their contractors, there had been a move towards the recognition of contractors.

Hartners has a parallel with the Qantas New Zealand collapse, in the way that investors and contractors and sub-contractors were led up the garden path and then left standing at the alter holding the baby.

There were at least 1031 sub-contractors on a mailing list of creditors compiled by the receiver of Hartner Construction and Hartner Group.

There are serious problems with the Securities Act, the Companies Act and the Commerce Act with regard to contractors, who through no fault of their own, are left with debts due to collapsed companies like Hartner.

That is not justifiable under natural justice and therefore should be corrected.

But we need to look at the way that particular case was administered.

How can a company that would normally earn $3 million a year for each of the last 3 years lose $50 million to unsecured creditors? If the money was there, where did it go? If the money wasn't there to start with, why wasn't it?

Normally companies don’t rack up debts of $50 million in one month, so if the company had been trading insolvent for some time, did its bank know this and should they not be liable?

The inability of the Securities Commission to act in support of the creditors of the failed Hartner Construction Company, is a further indication of a state watchdog agency being impotent.

In a parallel situation, the Ministry of Commerce failed to act to protect the interest of a number of retired Tauranga investors in the Industrial Banking Corporation scandal resulting in investors becoming totally exposed, and having their life savings taken from them.

The Industrial Banking Corporation scandal occurred in Tauranga despite my numerous approaches to governmental agencies to take action and, in Hartner's case, scores of Tauranga contractors were left high and dry in circumstances which in other countries, official action would have been immediate.

Yet a further recent example of a taxpayer funded watchdog organization failing in its duty, was the inexcusable inaction by the Serious Fraud Office and the IRD in failing to bring charges following my exposure of the Winebox transactions.

These failures to act on behalf of those for whom they are duty bound to serve, highlights their inefficient, timid and irresponsible approach, and raises the question in the minds of many taxpayers, investors and now private contractors, as to their worth.

If these agencies can't or won't act as they should, then we should get rid of them and put in place, agencies with teeth and the courage to use wide powers.

It appears that in New Zealand, far too many in the establishment are confused about the difference between a free and fair market, and a jungle.

And that is why we will be supporting the Bill.

I have pleasure in opening your 34th Annual Conference with the certain expectation that you will enjoy your stay here in this lovely city.

ENDS

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