Landscaper caught in builder's collapse

A LAKE Macquarie landscaper has been caught by the collapse of a second builder on the same Teralba building job, costing him as much as $17,000 in lost payments.

Creating Eden Landscapes founder Matt Corfield is one of dozens of subcontractors caught when Sydney firm St Hilliers Constructions went into administration this week - a move the state government has described as "cynical".

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says as many as 60 people were working on the York Street, Teralba, Department of Housing site, while more were on a St Hilliers job at Muswellbrook's Mount Arthur coalmine.

"We did $10,000 on the Teralba job when the first builder went under last March," Mr Corfield said yesterday.

"I didn't want to go back there, but the St Hilliers people gave me an iron-clad guarantee I would be paid because there was no way the government could afford the embarrassment of a second collapse.

"Now this has happened. They owe me $6732. It was supposed to be a stimulus job, but it's reverse stimulus because it could put us out of business.

"I've got three full-time employees, a full-time apprentice and a casual worker and we could all end up on the dole at this rate."

In a statement yesterday, St Hilliers chairman Tim Casey said St Hilliers Construction had been put in administration because it was exposed to guarantees given for the debts of another company, St Hilliers Ararat, over a $350 million expansion of Ararat prison in Victoria.

Mr Casey said he had no choice but to call in the administrators after months of work to recapitalise the business had failed.

NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce said the federal government should investigate the company and any breaches of corporations law.

"[It's] a cynical attempt to avoid their liabilities on the Victorian jail project," Mr Pearce said.

"What sort of business model is it that these people can come out and say, 'Well we're going to put this company into administration to avoid our exposures to guarantees and debts'?" he said.

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