O'Brien Plumbing Maroochydore owner Peter King (left) with staff member Chris Bidmade is trying to put his latest setback behind him.
O'Brien Plumbing Maroochydore owner Peter King (left) with staff member Chris Bidmade is trying to put his latest setback behind him.

Ripped off plumber gives up hope on Ri-Con debt

Coast plumber Peter King says he won't get a cent of the money owed by a failed builder as he scrambles to rebuild his business and life in the wake of the collapse.

Mr King said he was forced to borrow $80,000 against his home earlier this year to keep his company afloat after Peregian Beach-based builder Ri-Con Contractors collapsed.

He has also walked away empty-handed from efforts by a group of unsecured subcontractors to force a police investigation into events leading up to the liquidation.

Ri-Con subbies launch investigation into builder collapse

Massive blow for subbies in chaos from collapse

He has also declined a request from the liquidators Worrells for further funding to help pursue the recovery of his funds.

Sunshine-based liquidator Paul Nogueira said Ri-Con went bust owing unsecured creditors, including subcontractors, about $3.8 million and secured creditors about $1 million.

He said there was about $300,000 to $350,000 in owed employee entitlements.

"We had some contingent creditors in respect to some surety bonds that had been issued on various projects and that was another million (dollars)," Mr Nogueira said.

Mr King is owed almost $80,000 by Ri-Con and estimates during his working life he has been stung by builder collapses for more than $1 million.

"I don't want to hand over another cent, we'll never recover a cent of it because there's nothing to recover," Mr King said.

"I've been done so many times now, I've had to sell my house previously, I lost $300,000 in another job."

One of the major projects impacted by the Ri-Con collapse was the Noosa Council’s Rufous Street Precinct at Peregian Beach.
One of the major projects impacted by the Ri-Con collapse was the Noosa Council’s Rufous Street Precinct at Peregian Beach.

"It's very, very frustrating that no one is there to help the subbie to recover money.

"There's nowhere to turn, they say you need to spend money."

Mr King said a lawyer friend told him to cut his losses and get on with his life.

He has been able to keep his business going despite the latest hardship by accessing the Federal Government's COVID-19 business support packages.

"That's helped our cash flow a lot, because we just had to draw on our home loan that $80,000 at the time," he said.

"Obviously that was January/February right when COVID hit and everyone liked to know where they were going.

"We've got 14 staff, we did lose some guys but we then put on some guys."

Mr King said the building industry on the Sunshine Coast was busy despite the tough times.

"That's the frustrating thing, everybody thinks you're making a million dollars," he said.

Mr King said he felt "totally let down" by the government reforms meant to protect subbies from business collapses.

"Which ever way you turn, you're at their mercy," Mr King said.

He said he was pursuing payment for another subcontracting job worth $7000.

"They know you're not going to go to court to chase it, there's nothing the poor subbie can do to enforce payment," he said.

Mr Nogueira said Worrells sent a report out to creditors earlier this year outlining there were some potential funds recovery avenues available.

"We requested funding from creditors to pursue those various avenues … no funding was forthcoming at that stage," Mr Nogueira said.

"We've since made an application to Australian Securities and Investments Commission and they're considering funding us at the moment.

He said there were other options if the commission declined the request, saying "a couple of creditors" had "recently come back us that might be interested in funding us".

"There has been some sale of assets that have come in, they have all gone to the secured creditor.

"There are some other nominal recoveries which we have used to cover some of our fees and legal costs."

He said the recoveries to date were about $250,000 with majority paid to secured creditors.


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