Former television star Craig Busch, known as the Lion Man, has moved to have his mother Patricia Busch declared bankrupt, and the family enterprise they are bitterly warring over, Zion Wildlife Gardens, has gone into liquidation.
Associate judge Roger Bell heard applications relating to the financial difficulties of the family and the lion park in the Whangarei Liquidation Court yesterday. Mother and son did not face each other as neither attended the hearing. Craig Busch is believed to be living at Tutukaka after returning from overseas.
The application for liquidation was filed by the Inland Revenue Department for a debt of $105,766. The company is already in receivership, which can be filed by a single creditor wanting payment - Rabo Bank in the case of Zion.
Liquidation is a more tightly controlled process, with the liquidator being neutral. Trading may continue, as in a receivership, but liquidation almost always results in the end of a business.
The liquidation of Zion Wildlife Gardens took effect immediately yesterday, with the end officially timed by Judge Bell at 10.25am.
Mr Busch applied to have his mother declared bankrupt for a debt of $3800.
Appearing for Mr Busch, counsel Tony Savage said he understood the receivers PwC had begun actively marketing the assets of the business. "I understand there are two-to-three tenders in at the moment," he said.
Lion Man moves to have
mother declared bankrupt
Judge Bell ordered that the documents relating to the application for bankruptcy be served by substituted service, with the matter to return to the Liquidation Court on September 19, along with an application from Whangarei lawyers Henderson Reeves Connell Rishworth, which is owed $180,000. Earlier this month Mrs Busch delayed receivers' access to the park. Substituted service, provides an alternative way of serving documents under such conditions.
Barrister Andrew Holgate, appearing for another creditor, Bel Bruun of New South Wales, submitted another application to have Mrs Busch declared bankrupt, but this did not proceed after she paid the $8200 sought.
Mrs Busch said the loan had not come through her and she believed the money had been used to pay costs associated with an action her son had faced in the Employment Relations Authority court. She had felt morally obliged to pay the money, so the creditor, who is known to her, did not continue to be out of pocket.
She said she had arrived in Whangarei in 2005 to help.
"I thought what Craig was doing was marvellous and now I am being persecuted by my own son," Mrs Busch said.
Under the receivership the park had continued to run booked tours and Mrs Busch said could see no reason for this to be discontinued under liquidation.
Her lawyer, Evgeny Orlov, said the main consideration at this stage was protecting the animals from "being split up or God forbid, euthanised".
He said he was working on forming a trust to provide the framework for keeping the park going under the direction of an independent board, for the benefit of Northlanders and others.
"No zoo will take them because they are not in effect wild animals ... they have been hand-reared and they are used to being together as a group and have bonds ... It would be a terrible loss if such beautiful creatures were killed," he said.