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Govt chips in $20M to fix leaky Botany Downs school

Tuesday 26th February 2019

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A $20 million government injection to fix leaky buildings at Botany Downs Secondary School will plug the hole left after the unwanted remnants of Hawkins Construction collapsed. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins today announced the investment to fix leaks across the school campus, including re-roofing and cladding work on buildings that contain 70 of the school's 84 teaching spaces. Work is already underway, and will include temporary teaching spaces for the decile 9 school with more than 1,800 students. 

"As well as investing in new schools for a growing student population, we know that many existing buildings not affected by weathertightness at schools around the country have been neglected or barely patched up in recent years. That is not fair on the students or teachers and needs to change," Hipkins said in a statement. 

The Ministry of Education has been contending with leaky schools for the better part of the past decade, writing off almost $1 billion from the value of its property portfolio in 2010 when faced with almost 1,800 defective buildings. 

It successfully sued H Construction North Island in the High Court last year, winning a $13.4 million order for the ex-Hawkins unit to repair nine buildings at the east Auckland school. 

The construction firm built a series of inter-linking two-storey buildings with interconnected roofs between 2003 and 2009 for $28 million. During the argument over the remediation cost, the judge noted the threshold didn't meet the $25 million level that needs Cabinet approval, nor the $15 million for a ministerial sign-off. 

Just 10 days after that court order, the Orange H Group of companies were tipped into receivership by its shareholder, McConnell Ltd. The Orange H companies were set up to run down the residual Hawkins assets that Downer didn't want. The Australian firm paid A$55.4 million for the Hawkins business and brand, adding almost A$1 billion to annual revenue from its New Zealand business. 

That transaction is under the microscope by the Orange H liquidator, who is trying to untangle $453 million of related party loans, to determine whether there will be anything left to meet the $93.8 million of unsecured claims from 249 tradespeople and suppliers. 

The Education Ministry has a separate claim against the ex-Hawkins group that hasn't progressed as far, and will be preparing for a major case against Carter Holt Harvey involving 833 school buildings.

The Carter Holt suit has been running for about five years and will be a multi-stage trial with the building products maker adding local bodies up and down the country as third parties if it's found liable. 

Unlike its rivals James Hardie and CSR Building Products, Carter Holt didn't reach a deal with the ministry and instead sought to strike out the claim. The government entity launched its representative action against the firms in 2013 seeking contributions for what it initially thought would cost between $1.3 billion and $1.8 billion. The predicted cost of remediation was later revised down to between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion.

Carter Holt's ShadowClad is at the heart of a smaller claim by the ministry and Wanaka Primary School's board of trustees. They're suing Opus International, Amalgamated Builders and MR Decorating for work done in 2009 and 2010. 

(BusinessDesk)

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