Contractors react to closure

Kirway Constructions’ closure last week has been met with mixed reactions, with both sympathy and frustration being directed towards the company from contractors.

One local plumbing contractor, who had current commercial contracts with Kirway but did not want to be named, said despite already laying off three tradesmen as a result of the closure, he was “taking things in his stride”.

“It’s a pretty big hit, but I’ve worked with Kirway the whole time they’ve been in existence – there’s no animosity, we’ve been through a lot together,” he said.

Despite being left $250,000 out of pocket by the collapse, Sale landscaping contractor Liz Filmer said she wished the company all the best.

Ms Filmer said she had spoken to Kirway administrators on Thursday, however she said it was too early to gauge whether any money owed would be returned.

“Yeah it hurts, but we’re hopeful we might get a bit of that back,” she said.

“(Kirway) were doing the right thing for everyone, and were probably one of the most respected companies in the region.”

Signing 80 per cent of her work with Kirway through larger commercial projects, including the currently uncompleted Dalkeith Retirement Village in Traralgon, Ms Filmer said the collapse would make it “hard for the (Dalkeith) client to get it finished”.

She said while the market had become “really tight”, she believed Kirway’s closure wouldn’t greatly affect their ability to land more work.

“Kirway were getting quiet recently, so we were having to chase up other projects; taking up other residential projects we normally don’t chase up,” she said.

Director of a local plumbing company Daniel Smolenaar had no current contracts with Kirway, however had “money owing”, and was disappointed the business had not done more to communicate with business partners about the decision to close.

“When people are in trouble you talk – you ask for liberty, you work with your alliance partners who are both your creditors and debtors,” Mr Smolenaar said.

“We have a responsibility for the people who work for me – it’s been a case of poor planning (by Kirway).”

However, Mr Smolenaar said Kirway had “made the best of a bad situation”, and said his business had been burnt in the past by other companies who “had dug a hole so damn deep they could never fill it”.

He said the frequency of building and construction company fallovers in recent years had transformed the industry behaviour.

“A number of private contractors are falling over on a daily basis as a result of outcomes like this, so we are restructuring the way we do business so as not to expose ourselves in future,” Mr Smolenaar said.

Warragul painting contractor Greg Horan worked “nearly exclusively” for Kirway Constructions for about 46 weeks over the last year, and had a $100,000 job lined up with the company later this year.

He said handling some of Kirway’s “relatively big jobs”, including Traralgon GippsTAFE and the Moe Early Learning Centre, Kirway contracts brought in up to $120,000 per job.

“Talking with people I know, they just didn’t see it coming; it’s been more of a shock – I think they’ve done the very best they could.”

Mr Horan said while he was owed “a little bit of retention money”, there was “no animosity” and “no malice” towards the company, who tried their best in the tough construction climate.

“The (collapse) is a sign of the recession, there’s no two ways about it – no one wants to say the word, but we are in recession.”