The company hired to build Synlait’s new dairy processing factory at Pokeno are determined to see it completed.
This is despite Ebert Construction – the company contracted to construct the factory – going into receivership.
Synlait contracted processing and packaging giant Tetra Pak to oversee the project, who in turn hired Ebert Construction as sub-contractors for the building work.
Ebert was put into receivership on Wednesday morning with receivers saying the company owed “tens of millions” of dollars, largely resulting from poorly performing projects in Auckland.
Workers and contractors arrived at Ebert Construction sites around the country to find themselves locked out with no access to their tools.
When finished, the $250 million factory in north Waikato would produce 45,000 tonnes of infant-grade skim milk, whole milk and infant formula base powders.
In June, Synlait chief executive John Penno said the new factory would provide 50-70 jobs and hoped to have it commissioned for the 2019-2020 dairy season.
Tetra Pak Oceania managing director Andrew Pooch said it was still their intention to have the factory completed by that time.
He said it was a difficult situation. Tetra Pak and Synlait had a long standing relationship and they were determined to find a solution and get the project back on track.
“Synlait is our customer and awarded us the contract and it’s our intention to complete the contract.
“We are a multinational company and we are not going to be one of these people who walks away. That’s not going to happen.”
Construction of the factory was still in the early stages with earthworks underway and some concrete poured. Pooch said they were currently working with the receivers and exploring all options.
“Within the dairy industry timing is pretty critical and we are going to do the best we can to deliver to Synlait’s expectations. We were already talking to Synlait last night when this news broke.
“We need to work as close as we can with Synlait, as close as we can with the receivers and make good decisions on how to give Synlait what they want.”
When asked if it could push out the construction cost, he said: “Ideally no, but we have to deal with that while we work out what we can do.”
Key to that would be whether the receivers allowed Ebert to remain on the project.
“If the receivers say ‘No Ebert can’t do it,’ we need to work with other people who can and there are other alternatives in New Zealand.”
Ebert were also contracted by Tetra Pak to construct a new advanced liquid dairy packaging facility at Synlait’s Dunsandel site. Pooch said this project was nearly completed and would be less affected.
Synlait said in a statement that Tetra Pak is contracted by Synlait for both projects and it remained confident in their relationship with Tetra Pak.
By: Gerald Piddock