Ebert director named and shamed on Wellington billboards

The receiver for Ebert Construction says the company became a victim of New Zealand's skills shortage, taking on large housing development contracts in Auckland and being unable to supply the labour for them.

Ebert owes creditors $45 million, and managing director Kelvin Hale is being named and shamed on billboards in Wellington.

Richard Burrell says his plumber nephew is owed more than $600,000. He's taken out billboard space to claim Mr Hale's new $10 million Wellington house was "built on the blood, sweat and tears of subcontractors".

"These guys haven't paid $40 million of subcontractors. They were hoping it was going to go away quietly and disappear into the ether. We're going to keep it public."

The news for tradies and subcontractors wanting their money isn't good, according to receiver John Fisk from law firm PwC.

"Unfortunately for the subcontractors and the like, it's unlikely anything will come out of the receivership."

Ebert was placed in receivership at the end of July, impacting 100 staff and more than 100 subcontractors.

In its first report, PwC says Ebert had 15 active projects in Auckland and Wellington but it wasn't feasible to recommence any of them.

"There is a shortage of supply of good, qualified people, so there were issues caused by delays," Mr Fisk says.

He says because the company was on thin margins, it doesn't take long for a contract to turn from being profitable to making a loss.

A law change in 2017 required companies to hold what are called retentions in a trust fund.

"It allows for the principal or head contractor to ensure there is money to pay for defects and things that might go wrong," Mr Fisk says.

There are $3.6 million in Ebert's retentions trust.

"Unfortunately the amendment to the act wasn't clear how those funds would be distributed, particularly once a company goes into receivership," he says.

Newshub could not reach Mr Hale for comment.

Mr Fisk says the only option now is to work with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and go to court to get directions on who is entitled to those funds and how they get paid out, which will incur more cost. 

He's hoping for a ruling by Christmas. In the meantime, Mr Burrell plans to keep erecting billboards for the next six months.