Article by: Hari Yellina
The Capricorn Coast’s plans to build a $13.8 million pineapple processing plant have been put on hold after the business behind the project went bankrupt. The federal government, which contributed $5.8 million through the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages Fund, and Hidden Valley Harvest Pty Ltd jointly funded the 2000 square metre facility in Yeppoon. Construction on the factory, which will contain cutting-edge food technology, was approved at a sod turning event in December 2019 and is expected to be operational by June 2020. However, due to planning differences, Hidden Valley Harvest dissolved the construction business in February 2021, and the project remains unfinished to this day. Hidden Valley Harvest Pty Ltd recently filed for bankruptcy.
The company has subsequently dropped out of the project, claiming it is no longer sustainable, but its shareholders say they still want to see the facility developed to its full potential. Valley Harvest Group Limited is a single shareholder in Hidden Valley Harvest. Director Derek Lightfoot stated that the initiative was now seeking further funding. “The cost of construction is now millions of dollars more than the original contract due to severe time project delays and the impact of COVID on both the cost and time of construction,” he said.
The builder was unable to meet those standards despite signing a design and construct contract to finish the structure for an agreed sum in six months. “This is particularly surprising, given that the equipment expenses, which were originally anticipated to be far higher than the building costs, were kept below budget.” Mr Lightfoot stated that the basic structure had been constructed, but that the cost of completing the exterior work was significant. “Valley Harvest Group Limited is currently working hard to execute a reorganisation and raise the additional monies required to complete the facility’s construction,” he stated.
Hidden Valley Harvest (Facility) Pty Ltd (HVH) hired Rockhampton ASM Builders to build the pineapple processing facility. The construction firm has vehemently denied charges concerning its project performance. ASM Builders managing director Sam Milfull stated his company was not hired on a design-build basis and that Hidden Valley Harvest was in charge of the facility’s design. “HVH falsely terminated the contract with ASM Builders in February 2021 and refused to pay ASM Builders for its work and the labour of its subcontractors,” he added. HVH owes ASM Builders more than $960,000, according to Mr Milfull, and has failed to pay. Mr Lightfoot’s claims about ASM Builders’ performance on the project were vigorously refuted by him. “The underlying cause of the project delays was HVH’s own many delays in issuing drawings,” he explained.
Despite HVH’s project delays, ASM Builders and its subcontractors decided to complete the contract. “Mr Lightfoot’s attempts to place responsibility on ASM Builders are untrue and deceptive. HVH falsely claimed to have terminated the contract with ASM Builders in February 2021 and refused to pay ASM Builders for its work and the work of its subcontractors.”