Friday, February 13, 2015

New Zealand’s Biggest Home Manufacture in Hands of Receivers

New Zealand's largest off-site residential manufacturer, working in Auckland's Special Housing Areas, is in receivership and almost half the staff have been let go.

eHome NZ, with a large factory in Kumeu's Access Rd and capable of putting up a house in only eight hours, is now in the hands of McDonald Vague receivers Tony Maginness and Peri Finnigan.



On Monday, the receivers laid off 42 staff, leaving about 58 people working for the builder, whose factory was opened by Prime Minister John Key in 2013.

eHome, capable of building 250 houses annually, has been on many south and west Auckland sites, specialising in fast-track community and social housing schemes where it has made a big name for itself.


It has been particularly busy at New Zealand's most advanced Special Housing Area - hatched under an accord between the Government and Auckland Council - at Weymouth's Waimahia Inlet where it was one of only three builders.

Maginness said a number of parties had expressed an interest in buying eHome.
"It's a shame. This is the future of construction. It was just getting the volume and it was a bit ahead of its time," he said, estimating it owed creditors about $9 million. Those creditors include secured creditor CJM eHome, which is associated with the owners.
Maginness said eHome did not own the factory, just the plant but was financially stretched.

"It ran out of capital. They only lease the factory but there's a whole lot of machinery in the plant, very hi-tech German and European equipment so there's a lot of money spent on that. It's a learning curve to get up to full production," he said.

The business designed, manufactured and completed eight apartments for the Community of Refuge Trust at Princes St, Otahuhu, 10 homes at Pukaki Rd, Mangere and another 10 units at Denver Ave, Sunnyvale, West Auckland for the Housing Foundation and the Salvation Army, finished in the first half of 2014, and built a private development at Hillary Heights, West Auckland.

The company was able to put up a four-bedroom house in a day due to weeks of pre-construction in the factory and gained industry prominence as a speedy builder which kept housing costs low but turned out excellent results.

McDonald Vague is now in charge of the sites where eHome is working: Maginness said eHome was putting up 10 to 15 homes but had many other much larger contracts.

The receivership job is large and complex and has been divided into claims from secured and unsecured creditors including material suppliers and manufacturers, the sale of the business as a going concern and trading-on accounts.
Pamela Bell, chief executive of industry organisation PreFabNZ, said she was disappointed about the receivership. "It's not a reflection of the wider industry. There's some really exciting developments happening in Christchurch," she said referring to the earthquake rebuild.
Grant Florence of Certified Builders said he knew of the company and its big plans. "I've got sympathy with people who've lost their jobs. It's symptomatic of the challenge pre-fabrication has to get a foothold, with the market size," he said.
A statement from eHome in 2013 said it was well placed to assist in the challenge of New Zealand's affordable housing shortage. The factory was the first to use European concepts and equipment to produce conventional New Zealand apartments and homes in a factory, it said.


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