Wings clipped at airport: extension contractor grounded, but 'life goes on'

STOP WORK: Work on the $9 million upgrade to the airport has stopped after the site’s major contractor Hewatt Earthworks was placed into voluntary administration this week. 
Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0317sgairport7

STOP WORK: Work on the $9 million upgrade to the airport has stopped after the site’s major contractor Hewatt Earthworks was placed into voluntary administration this week. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0317sgairport7

ORANGE City Council’s airport advisory committee chair Chris Gryllis says it’s “regretful” work on Orange Airport’s $9 million upgrade was brought to a standstill on Wednesday after the site’s major contractor Hewatt Earthworks was placed into voluntary administration.

“Life goes on and it’s with regret that these things take place,” Cr Gryllis said.

He said despite problems at the site, he’s optimistic work will re-start soon.

Hewatt Earthworks was the major contractor on the project and had been engaged to extend the runway, build new roads and upgrade aviation facilities at the site.

Cr Gryllis said it was fortunate that council had only paid for work that had already been completed.

“We’ll be working to make sure the council isn’t out of pocket because of these unfortunate events,” Cr Gryllis said.

Yesterday council staff met today with representatives from Hewatt Earthworks and PPB Advisory, which has been appointed as voluntary administrators to the construction company.

Hewatt’s problems came to light when the company was forced to stop work on the $288 million Majura Parkway development in Canberra this week, and its workers asked to leave the site.

“Because the civil construction work at the airport had reached the half-way point, that puts it in a good position for the project to continue"

Orange City Council’s technical services director Chris Devitt said council staff are co-operating with the administrators to minimise delays at the airport construction site.

“Because the civil construction work at the airport had reached the half-way point, that puts it in a good position for the project to continue,” Mr Devitt said. 

“The administrators have now begun the difficult job of analysing the company’s assets and liabilities, but the council is optimistic the airport project can be a source of value for them.

“It will be up to the administrators how they appoint a new firm to supervise the project.”

Mr Devitt said the most important thing, for the sake of the sub-contractors, is to have a seamless and timely restart of the project so that subcontractors who want to, can get back to work.

“It’s up to the administrators to find the best way of paying the subcontractors who have been impacted by these events. 

“A creditors’ meeting will be held on May 20 so it’s going to take some time to sort through these issues.”

Mr Devitt said council had engaged specialist consultants to check the references of Hewatt Earthworks before awarding the tender for the airport project.

Despite the setback, work on the new airport was continuing as normal with the construction work being undertaken by a separate contractor.

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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