Contractors want Pike River to liquidate

Unsecured former contractors at the Pike River Coal mine in New Zealand want to liquidate the company, saying it will give them the best chances of getting repaid quickly and provide a better chance the bodies of the miners killed in the tragedy will be recovered.

The contractors say they are owed almost $5 million by Pike River Coal and have echoed the understanding that receivers of the mine will never pay them because their only obligation is to NZ Oil and Gas.

The 43 workers believe liquidating the company is the only way they would be repaid what they are owed.
The group believe receivers have not done enough to attempt to pay creditors or retrieve the bodies of the workers who lay entombed in the mine, much to the distress of the families left behind.

Chairman for the group of contractors, Peter Haddock last night told New Zealand media that the situation has “reached the point of no return, with little action by the receiver to attempt to recover the bodies for the families and, last week, the receiver’s indication that the company would not be fully participating in the royal commission".

"We have been holding back on liquidation while there was a realistic prospect of the recovery process proceeding," he said.

This morning he told Radio New Zealand some members are considering legal action, which they would have to fund themselves, but many are struggling financially due to Pike’s inability to pay them and the receivership one of the contractors went into last week.

Haddock believed liquidating the company, rather than trying to sell it as a whole could speed up its purchase.

He recognised Solid Energy’s promise to buy the mine, make it financially viable again, and retrieve the bodies that lay entombed inside.

He also said the required notices have been served to the mine’s receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers, who will have to decide if they want to fight the liquidation move in court.

"Our group lost 13 of our own employees on November 19 last year and also the community wants to see some action as well.

"It is distasteful the way things have dragged on, and liquidation may mean the process speeds up.
"It also will be an opportunity for outside review of the receivers’ actions."

David Butler, lawyer for the contractors, said liquidation proceedings will start this week.

PricewaterhouseCoopers told local media it would continue to control the asset disposition, but a liquidator would allow reviewal of payments receivers made and proposed.

The preliminary hearing for the Royal Commission of Inquiry was held earlier this month and is due to officially begin with public hearings on 23 May.

The New Zealand government has refused to finance lawyers for Pike River, after the company said it could not afford to pay for representation.

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