Ebert won't be last construction company to go under - experts

Industry experts say Auckland construction heavyweight Ebert won't be the last contractor to go under.

It comes a day after the business went into receivership, which has seen contractors lose work and its employees without jobs.

Michael Pappas and Rod Parker have worked at Ebert Construction's Library Lane development for the past year. But when Ebert went under on Wednesday, the site managers' jobs went with it.

Mr Pappas says it was a "great shock to the system", and Mr Parker says he only found out he'd lost his job when he turned up to the site at 6:45am.

They and 93 other employees will now have to find new jobs.

Ebert's demise is being blamed on poorly performing projects in Auckland, but Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood says the problems run far deeper, and Ebert isn't the first and won't be the last business to fold.

"Mainzeal not that long ago; Fletchers had to write off a billion dollars off their balance sheet through contracting; Hawkins were sold to Downer but were on the cusp; and now Ebert - and there may be others to come."

AUT Professor John Tookey says the problem is multi-layered.

In a booming market, companies are forced to forecast the costs of a large project years in advance. But with so much work becoming available, sub-contractors can leave at any time to new projects offering more money.

"And as if by magic, a contractor now has to retender the whole exercise, and all of a sudden the provisional sums have been blown out," says Prof Tookey.

He says companies are also taking on projects they wouldn't normally build, meaning staff don't specialise in what they're doing, which creates even more trouble.

"If you're a company, you need to be very careful about only taking on board that what you're really capable and competent to deliver on uniquely, and not try and diversify too much in that core business."

It's a warning that's come too late for the likes of Mr Pappas and Mr Parker, whose biggest job will now be finding a new one.