Administrators are looking to wind up Queanbeyan building firm Tread Lightly Earth Moving. The firm was invovled in a dispute over ASIO's new building. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Administrators will move to wind up a Queanbeyan building company caught up in the disputes over ASIO's new building in Canberra.
Up to 52 local jobs now look set to be lost after liquidators told the staff of Tread Lightly Earthmoving last week that they were ''stood down'' but not ''terminated''.
But administrator Henry Kazar of insolvency firm Kazar Slaven said he would recommend to Tread Lightly's 200 creditors - who are owed $2.7 million - that the company be wound up.
Tread Lightly has been trying to trade its way out of serious financial trouble since March, when it called in the administrators, blaming its financial woes on $800,000 owed for its work on the $633 million ASIO building at Campbell. Tread Lightly was one of the key creditors of Urban Contractors, which went into administration in October, a move largely blamed on its involvement with the ASIO project.
The company's administrators are in dispute with the lead contractor on the ASIO building and have partly blamed the official secrecy surrounding the project for the company's failure to get paid.
Lend Lease has consistently referred questions about contracts at Campbell to the agency in charge of the construction job, the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which has refused to talk publicly about the disputes. Builders around Canberra and the region say they are owed up to $6 million and the industry fears that Tread Lightly's fate is part of a domino effect caused by the disputes on the ASIO job and that there will be more casualties.
The liquidator said he had decided that Tread Lightly was no longer viable as a going concern.
''It wasn't viable to continue trading, the cash flows do not support continued trading,'' Mr Kazar said.
''We are moving now towards the realisation of the assets and probably the liquidation of the company.
''The creditors ultimately decide but we're recommending that the company go into liquidation.''
Tread Lightly director Georgie
Francois said he did not believe his company could be revived.
''It's pretty well irreversible now, there's a dead animal on the ground and there's no resurrection,'' Mr Francois said.
''I'm absolutely ropeable with the federal government over this. They talk about supporting small business, but where's the support here? The genesis of all of this is us not being paid by the federal government.''
Mr Francois was also critical of Mr Kazar's decision to recommend liquidation.
''Now we've got into this position, we've been let down by an administrator's decision that we don't think was necessary,'' he said. ''This affects every single stakeholder, except the administrator, who gets paid.''