Christchurch earthquake: Damage adds strain to SCF asset sale

By Anne Gibson

Photo / Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

South Canterbury Finance Christchurch staff, locked out of their damaged CBD office for a year, are moving to two sites well out of the dangerous quake-hit cordon zone.

Kerryn Downey, the SCF receiver of McGrathNicol, said the big financier would operate temporarily from two new leased locations in Christchurch.

Downey, heading the SCF asset sale process to recoup the state's $1.6 billion paid to investors last year, said receivership headquarters was transferred to Auckland at McGrathNicol's offices in Shortland St.

"We have not fully assessed whether we will transfer the receivership administration back to Christchurch. We don't want to tie up hotel space needed for rescue workers. The staff are severely shocked and have families and other considerations," Downey said.

SCF's asset management unit would go to rented office space on Blenheim Rd and the rest to a site nearby or near Christchurch International Airport.

A disaster management plan, arranged pre-September 4, was executed and allowed the business to continue operating, he said.

Details of the move have not been finalised but SCF has 98 staff, two-thirds Christchurch-based, Downey said.

Scales House, SCF's former headquarters at 254 Montreal St, is structurally damaged and staff left in what Downey described as "a massive hurry".

The five-level building near Cashel St was built in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so Downey said it was a similar vintage to the Pyne Gould Corporation building. Scales House needed extensive repairs.

"It will need a major bracing wall through the centre of the building. It's been yellow stickered which means the building appears structurally secure. However, it's not available for 12 months," Downey said.

Scales, 79.7 per cent owned by SCF, leased parts of the block and Downey said rent would not now be paid until the building was reoccupied. Scales House remains for sale, as does SCF's now-abandoned offices at 7-9 Sophia St, Timaru.

The quake would delay the SCF asset sale programme by only one to two weeks and relatively few loans were made to Canterbury businesses hit by the quake, he said.

The Armagh St residence where McGrathNicol Auckland staff stay is cordoned but had been green stickered so Downey said once limits were lifted, possessions could be retrieved.

Downey and other staff left Christchurch in a hurry on the day of the earthquake.

"We thought of going to Nelson.

"We couldn't get a car so we found campervans and rented those with the knowledge we may have to spend the night somewhere. We drove to Dunedin and found a motel," he said.

Staff continued working from Scales' Dunedin offices until returning to Auckland.

MORE BLOWS

Quake effects on SCF receivership:

* Scales House: structurally damaged.
* Block evacuated, no rent being paid.
* Receivership HQ shifted to Auckland.
* SCF forced to rent new offices.
* No new HQ for Scales Corp.

- NZ Herald

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