The Eye of the Fish

July 25, 2008

Wellington Construction corpses

The DomPost reported recently that Wellington Construction Ltd has bit the dust, owing various creditors money as it dissolved into a pile of construction rubble. We’re saddened by that, but its not completely unexpected: you run with wolves, you might just get bitten: although in this case its not really clear who is doing the biting. The saviour of Wellington football club Phoenix, our favourite spiky-haired developer Terry Serepisos has been hit by collateral damage – WCL were building Terry’s Century City development, leaving it in a state of limbo. Perhaps it may even have a a roll-on effect on the next Serepisos project in Dixon St. So, is this the start of the end of Wellington’s construction boom, or is it completely unrelated? 


Maybe we just leave you to make your own mind up. Terry Pinfold, the head of WCL, was an experienced contractor: 

“Pinfold made his name as commercial manager for Mainzeal in the 1990s when he was associated with projects such as moving the Museum Hotel, refurbishing the St James Theatre and building the Moa Point sewage treatment plant. In 1998 he set up the Wellington office of Auckland-based Hartner Construction. When Hartner went into liquidation in 2001, Mr Pinfold bought its Wellington operation and renamed it Wellington Construction. But three of his other companies – Kate Sheppard Developments, Holland Street Developments and Aitken Street Developments – are also in liquidation.”

Its not unusual for developers and builders to burn to the ashes and rise Phoenix-like in another form. Is this latest collapse just another phase in construction recycling?

WCL may have been caught in a pincer movement between rising material costs, complex designs, and probably the odd guaranteed maximum price. However, WCL viewed themselves as specialists in Design and Build, and therein perhaps lies their downfall: they don’t exactly have a brilliant track record regarding the quality of the developments they worked on. If there is one thing to almost guarantee a low quality of finish, an under-priced D&B is it: witness the architecturally stunted development of the Mulgrave St apartments. From an architectural viewpoint, D&B seldom delivers on what we may call Design Quality, and the majority of their projects bear this out: apartments in Mulgrave StBellagio apartments, the tall ugly skinny thing at 156 Willis Street, another tall pinkish apartment building in Johnston St, the Wellington YHA (later rebuilt to much higher quality standard by another company), the Hotel Raffael conversion, and some better quality projects such as projects in Oriental Bay, and of course their flagship piece in Century City.   Most of the other construction contractors seem to have pretty full workloads at present, although we’re obviously not privy to what their workload is like in the future. Certainly there are still a number of large projects on the cards, although some, like the government mega-project behind the Beehive, currently wrangled in Environment Court hell (and many would argue: rightly so too).


Still, at least earthquake repairs will be continuing, albiet at a slower pace according to this story in the DomPost. 

“Building owners in Wellington have been given another five years in which to earthquake-proof their properties. Wellington City Council granted the reprieve – as it faced the daunting prospect of finding the money to make sure its own portfolio of 400 buildings met the requirements of the 2004 Building Act. Mayor Kerry Prendergast said while the old code was designed to protect people’s lives, the new code was about securing buildings as well. “This is going to have a huge impact on building owners,” said Ms Prendergast, who was worried that it could spark a wave of demolition like that of the 1980s.”

With a bit of intelligent design and planning, we can have it both ways: retention of genuine heritage, and construction opportunities for new and exciting buildings, by quality contractors. And some strongly crossed fingers that the continuing collapse of property finance companies doesn’t extend to more construction companies as well. Just one proviso: No more D&B please.

25 - 07 - 08

Century City is still under way – saw contractors on the site earlier today – although at a slower than usual pace.

26 - 07 - 08

the Dom report says: “New Millennium Design, owned by Mr Serepisos, took over the contract and paid the subcontractors. – Mr Serepisos had no idea if he would get his money back.”
“I’ll just have to join the queue.”

So presumably Terry has his own construction company? He apparently has his own Design company already – and its rumoured he employs his own architects.

26 - 07 - 08

The apartments in century city seem to be slowly filling up – even those on the valley of darkness (monvie) side. Its a shame that the hotel @ the front is taking so long – surely this would be the most immediately profitable side of things?

Also: anyone know if that cantilvered pool is still going along?

60 MPa
29 - 07 - 08

WCL is owed around 1.4 mil by Serepisos and around .2 mil by the owners of Bellagio.
Serepisos went behind Pinfold’s back and got the subcontractors to Century City on board then shafted WCL by not paying.

Serepisos is famous around town for not paying.

New Millenium Design has taken over the contract and employed one Mike Still, who is a turncoat that used to be a WCL contracts manager. Knowing Mike he’s probably tiled the hallways with those white 1msq tiles before paying attention to the balconies which are the real things that are going to hold up the project.
Serepisos last week failed to appoint his own pet receivers instead of the current ones – he tried doing it by having a large debt owed but failed by not being the greatest number of creditors. If he had suceeded it would be unlikely that his tame receivers would have chased New Millenium for unpaid prgress payments to the tune of 1.4 mill.

Legend has it WCL only did Century City because Serepisos threatened to tie them up in Environment Court over the crane from Monvie going into his airspace unless they came on board for the build but I don’t know for sure about that one.

Hopefully the next step is an advertisement in the Public Notices section applying to wind up Serepisos until payment is forthcoming.

The swimming pool framing can be seen clearly at the top – it is the galvanised steel that juts out. It will add 30 tonnes to the top of a steel framed building which should be interesting.

30 - 07 - 08

Perhaps the way to get Terry to behave and pay promptly is, like Rod Petrevic in Auckland, to seize his car. Terry does appear to be rather fond of his Lambo.

31 - 07 - 08

Thanks for the info 60 MPa – you sound like a man who has been bitten by this particular corpse. I had no idea that Serepisos was in any way dodgy – he always seems like such a warm and friendly guy, keen to sponsor football and fashion, and keen to be featured in the society pages.

But re his car: yes, i do remember a few years back that he was in the paper with a plaintive look on his face – someone had poured a tin of white paint all over his (open) convertible. What was all that about?

31 - 07 - 08

I have noticed that the Renaissance Apartments are up for sale and also saw in the newspaper that the Lambton Quay building that Serepisos also ruined is also for sale. (Although it may only be the ground floor retail, and he may not even own any of it). Just normal business or is he feeling the squeeze?

I’ve heard plenty of dodgy things about Terry lately, but have no idea if they are true ….

31 - 07 - 08

the “Lambton Quay building that Serepisos also ruined” ? Do you mean the art deco Prudential building, with the ungainly rooftop addition? or is there another?

31 - 07 - 08

Yes, I mean the art deco Prudential building, with the ungainly rooftop addition.

As I think of it, I’m pretty sure it was just the ground floor for sale. So not really a big deal.

31 - 07 - 08

What do you mean “is there another?”

He is responsible for at least half of the dodgy, ungainly roof top additions in the city.
Maison Cabriolet (sp?), the ones on top of the BNZ on Manners Street (named Wellington’s “worst roof top addition”), Prudential etc.

He doesn’t value good design, he just wants to pack them in and up…

I could never understand the laudatory articles in the DomPost about how Terry was “saving the inner city”… to me he’s just a cheap and nasty developer that likes his sport.

Also the paint was white enamel, the car was the Lambo, and the perpetrator was an unpaid subbie…
Once again Terry got sympathetic media coverage, when in actual fact he was the one being the prick. I suggest it may have been cheaper to pay the subbie than getting the car cleaned.

7 - 08 - 08

I believe Terry had a friendly reporter at the Dompost who has since left the Post, it will be interesting to see an article showing the real Terry.

15 - 08 - 08

One of the papers has picked up on the story that Terry Serepisos and Phil Jones have flown off with their wives to go to a party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

It would be good to hear some more about that trip!

Ronnie Chow
4 - 09 - 08

And hearsay has it that Terry managed to get back to Hef’s party on his own,his house is going on the market,and he has just refinanced with the Bank Of Scotland.
All hearsay mind you.

20 - 09 - 08

Number of court cases regarding Robieson Rd I believe there are no code compliance certificates on homes that are currently for sale. Hope the agents have done their home work.

20 - 09 - 08

Agents? Homework? No, that’ll not be happening…. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a few of them get fined for making misleading statements…

20 - 09 - 08

Actually, something in the paper today – Terry Serepisos is selling off his Lone Star building, next to the Century City development pictured above.

And Bank of Scotland has just gone bust / been bought out by Lloyds. Although I’m sure that’s not Terry’s fault ! With the world economic and banking market on the fritz as it is at the moment, I’m sure there will be a few more developers as well as construction companies go to the wall over the next few months, without a doubt.

26 - 09 - 08

Its Auckland, not Wellington, but the first of many crashes no doubt:

‘Good advice’ on collapsed $250m property development
Thursday, 25 September 2008

Receivers of a $250 million property development north of Auckland say they are receiving good advice about options available for the project.

Whisper Cove, beside a former Salvation Army camp at Snells Beach about 75km north of Auckland, was to be a 160-residence 16ha waterfront development but went into receivership in June.
It was one of two, big residential developments north of Auckland to collapse.

The other is Kensington Park Properties, which was developing a $450m housing project at Orewa. It went into receivership a fortnight ago with only about 60 of the 750 houses the company planned on the former Puriri Park camping ground having been built.

At Whisper Cover just 36 units were built and the site has been abandoned for months after big money problems, leaving a string of subcontractors, builders and others owed more than $2m, The New Zealand Herald reported today.
KordaMentha are the receivers trying to rescue both projects.
Grant Graham of KordaMentha said good advice was being received about options available for Whisper Cove, and a decision was likely in about a month.
Meanwhile, Kensington Park boss Patrick Fontein is assuring would-be buyers their money is safe.
Deposits were in a lawyer’s trust account, while money paid by those who had moved in and paid into a residents’ society was also in an independent bank account.
“None of these funds are at risk.”