Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

High-flyer calls on WINZ

Former director of Blacktop Construction Simon Everett blames corruption for the failure of his company. Photo / Doug Sherring
Former director of Blacktop Construction Simon Everett blames corruption for the failure of his company. Photo / Doug Sherring

Simon Everett has worked every Christmas over the past 15 years resurfacing the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

But this year, he'll get to spend the holidays at home with his family - he's just not sure if it'll be in his own home.

Last month, his world fell apart when Blacktop Construction, the family company he's built up over 28 years, was placed in receivership.

It's left this proud, self-made father of two having to ask for handouts to survive.

"A month ago, I was driving a Lexus. Today, I'm driving a motor scooter," he said this week.

"My wife is about to go to WINZ to ask for some emergency payments for our mortgage. I'm going to be bankrupt, I would say. My brother and sister are in a pretty similar position."

The lowest moment came when bailiffs showed up at his elderly mother's home asking for money.

Blacktop found itself squeezed out of the major road maintenance contracts, deals now the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

There are allegations that a culture of backhanders, deal sweeteners or, 'inducements', are rife in the industry.

Everett, 44, says Blacktop refused to provide inducements and his company paid the price.

"We just didn't play that game ... and we were left out in the cold as a result."

Of particular interest to the investigation is the $420 million in road maintenance contracts issued in June.

Last month, roading maintenance manager Murray Noone was fired. A few weeks later, maintenance contracts manager Barry George resigned.

Offices at several major roading contractors and subcontractors have been raided by fraud investigators.

SFO acting chief executive Simon McArley would not name the businesses raided.

"We are looking at all the suppliers."

The downfall of Blacktop leaves a so-called "big five" companies to bid for road maintenance contracts in Auckland - Fulton Hogan, Higgins, Transfield, Downer and Heb.

- Herald on Sunday

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