Many of Mainzeal's workforce of 400 staff learned about the collapse of the company on Waitangi Day through the media.
"It was a bit of an unusual way to find out. Especially when it's three days before payday," one Christchurch employee said.
About 190 employees attended a sombre and emotional meeting with receivers in Christchurch at midday yesterday, one of several meetings across the country.
It was a similar story in Auckland - employees turning up for work at Shed 10 on Queens Wharf and the Hobson Gardens apartments in central Auckland were confused and upset at the loss of their jobs.
Said one employee in Christchurch: "My general manager got up at the start and gave a talk. He was like, 'I'm not going to do it off notes, I'll do it from the heart. Because a lot of you are my friends'."
Employees asked whether they would get paid in three days' time.
"They [the receivers] don't know at this stage, until they know what money is there for wages ... people were asking, 'how do I pay my mortgage?' We've all been told to keep our phones on, and I suppose hope Telecom don't turn them off."
Other workers asked whether the director's assets would be frozen.
The man said he felt most sorry for the overseas workers who had brought their families with them to settle in New Zealand.
Yesterday, security guards were posted outside the work entrance of Shed 10 on Queens Wharf, where the company had been doing a $14 million upgrade since September.
Work on refurbishing the old cargo shed into a cruise ship terminal and events space was well advanced and due for completion on April 17.
Yesterday morning, a small group of people, including Mainzeal project manager Greg Ford and Beca engineer Ron Holbrook, toured the site. Two Mainzeal staff were observed photographing materials and writing an inventory below a large banner that read: "Mainzeal - Building Certainty".
The stop to work did not prevent Shed 10 being used to disembark passengers from the cruise ship Amsterdam, which berthed at Queens Wharf on Wednesday.
Another Auckland Council project affected by the receivership is a new $5.1 million library at Oneroa on Waiheke Island.
Mainzeal started the project in August and has completed earthworks and foundations. The library was due for completion in September.
Waiheke Local Board chairwoman Faye Storer said it had taken 10 years - three different councils, three different mayors, budget cuts and discussions about the location - to get a new library for the island.
However, she was confident the new library would be completed.
"We are very disappointed for ourselves and the library project, but also for Mainzeal which has been a household name in New Zealand," she said.
Yesterday there was no answer at the Epsom home of Richard Yan, the sole director of Mainzeal Property and Construction, and the founder and head of the Richina Group, owner of the Mainzeal Group.
The Richina Group owns a multi-million-dollar vineyard on Waiheke Island.
The Te Motu Vineyard and its associated restaurant sit on 11.4 sheltered hectares in the Onetangi Valley.
The vineyard's website says that in 2011 Te Motu Vineyard was purchased by Richina Inc.By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman Email Bernard, Nicholas Jones Email Nicholas