Six Auckland schools are stranded with unfinished buildings after Alliance Construction went into liquidation.
The 23-year-old contracting and construction management company was placed into liquidation this month, leaving contracts unfinished at the six schools - Takapuna Grammar, Auckland Girls' Grammar, Rutherford College, Massey Primary, Glenfield Intermediate and Avondale College.
Liquidators said Alliance Construction owed its creditors $4.3 million and was owed a maximum of $1.8 million in unpaid bills from customers, 80 per cent of which were in the education sector.
However, the chances of sub-contractors seeing any of the $2.8 million they are owed could depend on how a fight brewing between the Ministry of Education and liquidators Steven Khov and Damien Grant of Waterstone Insolvency is resolved.
The construction company billed four schools in February - Auckland Girls' Grammar $360,000, Takapuna Grammar $139,000, Glenfield Intermediate $144,000 and Avondale College $325,000 (a total of $968,000) - and Grant said the ministry had called in quantity surveyors and was denying the schools were obliged to pay.
The liquidators' report said they had been advised the failure of Alliance was because of a quantity surveyor under-quoting contracts, which led to losses and cash-flow constraints, but liquidators said they were yet to verify this.
"The quantity surveyors on all sites are now denying the schools have any liability to pay these bills," said Grant.
Liquidators planned to send the matter to adjudicators but would not disclose who was funding the legal move.
"Increased competition in the market also contributed to the failure of the company. The immediate cause of the failure was due to the company losing bank support," they said in a report.
The ministry said that Avondale College had the most extensive work still to be completed, but the school would not comment on the abrupt end to the building project. "Each project manager in charge of the contracts on behalf of the ministry, in association with Crown counsel, is following due legal process to protect the interests of both the ministry and the schools as the liquidator follows their own process," said a ministry spokesperson.
Auckland Girls' Grammar principal Liz Thomson said internal work had been under way in a three-storey block built in the 1970s.
"They have gutted the top of the block totally. They have taken away seven classrooms and are building an information centre, which was 75 per cent finished," she said.
Thomson said the school learned of the liquidation when guards were sent to school gates to prevent sub-contractors coming on to the construction site. The liquidators had apparently called in the security firm.
Four classrooms were out of action and classes had to move around the school.
Students were scheduled to move into the block by the start of next term.
Thomson is frustrated with the ongoing disruption it had caused to the school.
Glenfield Intermediate principal Raewyn Matthys-Morris said the school's library and administration block had been left half complete, and it had caused huge disruption to the school.
"It's been devastating - they were doing our leaky building remediation project."
Directors Kris and Deborah MacCauley, who have a freehold $1.1 million home in Kumeu, could not be contacted.
The liquidators said they had employed 21 staff.