Silver Creek developers ask unpaid contractors for more time

by Kim Bowden - Sep 12, 2023

Contractors owed money by the developer behind the planned Silver Creek subdivision high above Frankton Road have once again been promised their bills will be paid before the end of the month.

But reassurances by the developer that the vital resource consent required to trigger funding for the ambitious project is all but approved appear premature.

Last week Crux reported earthworks contractor Murray Erskine had filed a legal demand for payment of bills he has been waiting a year on, but now Mr Erskine says his lawyer has been advised he will receive the hundreds of thousands of dollars he is owed on September 25.

The new payment deadline is the same one that has been promised to Maxine Murdoch, a second early contractor at the site owed a little more than $70,000.

Both contractors say they have been told by the developer, through lawyers, that resource consent approval is imminent.

However, that is not the word from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

In response to questions from Crux today, the council says steps are still required before a final decision will be made.

Publicly available documents on the complicated resource consent application remain up to date – dozens of fresh reports, reviews, comments and recommendations were uploaded to the council’s eDocs file for the property on August 18, and there has been no change since then, with the consent's status remaining on ‘waiting for further information’.

A spokesperson for the council says recommendations put forward by the processing planner are still being reviewed.

“We have been keeping the applicant informed of the remaining steps that need to be completed before a final decision can be made.

“As per normal process, we have shared some draft conditions with the applicant at this stage.

“Any consent may be granted on the basis of various conditions imposed as part of the review and final decision, but we emphasise no such decision has been issued for this application.”

Murray Erskine - owed more than $200,000 by Silver Creek developers.

Gavin Moore, a co-owner of Silver Creek Limited and the go-to for the early contractors on the site, has previously told Crux he is confident of getting the resource consent across the line.

But, he has little option but to remain optimistic. Funding for the project is locked until he can show he has been granted planning go-ahead – if he receives resource consent, the funding is unlocked, contractors will be paid and the project can move forwards.

Mr Moore is the first to admit the process has become increasingly complex.

There are hundreds of pages of technical reports and, in turn, peer reviews of those reports looking at complicated geotechnical, three waters, and traffic flow aspects of the steep 33-hectare block of land.

While Mr Moore's lawyer may have told the unpaid contractors' lawyers he has sighted draft conditions of any potential resource consent and implied the he can live with them, it remains up in the air if the funding providers can too.

Comprehensive conditions on a resource consent may lead to additional costs associated with compliance with them, potentially making a development project less attractive or achievable.

Already placing constraints on the potential of the site is the delay by Waka Kotahi of planned upgrades to Frankton Road - without these the subdivision would remain capped.

While the site is zoned residential there is no existing three waters infrastructure servicing it, and it is already apparent the developer has had to jump through increasingly difficult engineering hoops due to the challenging nature of the block of land - and the project is still in the planning stages. Implementing proposed engineering solutions related to waste and stormwater management, for example, will continue to deliver challenges.

Crux has attempted to ring Mr Moore for comment today.

The 33-hectare block is becoming increasingly complicated to subdivide.

Mr Erskine says his statutory demand for payment still stands, and he has not signed anything agreeing to the September 25 promise as a compromise.

But he will give Mr Moore until then before he takes any further legal steps, including looking to tip the Silver Creek company into liquidation.

Mrs Murdoch says, “I don’t want to sound like a ‘negative Nelly’ but we’ve heard all this before”.

However, Mr Moore’s lawyer has assured her she's confident this time it will happen.

Silver Creek Limited's resource consent application proposes a 585-lot residential subdivision, to be built in stages.

The resource consent application process is now in its third year.

The company is jointly owned by Mr Moore and David Wallace Bain, a former Waikato mayor and distinguished Rotorua coroner who made this year’s New Year Honours list. 

Earlier Crux reporting has revealed Ross Speakman, a director of liquidated Coronet Peak Construction/Signature Homes Queenstown, which collapsed in 2019, with links to Mr Bain, is also connected to the Silver Creek project.

Crux has also uncovered what appears to be a complex ownership structure for the Silver Creek company, financed by multi-billion dollar, Melbourne-based Merricks Capital.

Main image (Supplied): Earthworks contractor Murray Erskine's machines lined up at the site of the planned Silver Creek subdivision, which could deliver up to 585 new residences to Queenstown by the end of a staged project.

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