BUILDER Craig Cleary's, Cleary Group Pty Ltd, has gone into liquidation with debts of more than $3million.
BUILDER Craig Cleary's, Cleary Group Pty Ltd, has gone into liquidation with debts of more than $3million. Kari Bourne

Best mates caught up in Coast builder's $3m collapse

CREDITORS have been left owed more than $3 million following the latest Sunshine Coast building industry insolvency.

The Cleary Group Pty Ltd's 'collapse' rivals the 2013 Walton Queensland liquidation in terms of its impact on Sunshine Coast subcontractors who make up the majority of the 50-plus creditors left out of pocket.

Terry John Rose, of SV Partners, Brisbane, has been appointed liquidator.

His first report to creditors lists money owed creditors at $3,013,453.34, of which $2,016,453 were trade creditors, $347,000 to the Australian Tax Office and $650,000 to related parties.

The liquidator's report showed the builder had no assets, no cash at bank and only $45,076 in money owed it.

All secured creditors have been paid.

Earthmover Dave Daniels, who was left $13,500 out of pocket, said the liquidator's report effectively meant a lot of Sunshine Coast small businesses had supplied materials and labour for free.

"We are just another subbie caught up in the mess," he said.

"I've been caught three or four times with the biggest $220,000 so I know what people who have been hurt are going through.

"It took me years to dig my way out. The sooner Project Bank Accounts are introduced the better. They can't come soon enough for the industry."

Project Bank Accounts are part of a suite of reforms the Queensland Government is rolling out to improve payment security for the sector.

A Queensland Building and Construction Commission spokesperson said it received its first payment complaint about the Cleary Group in December, 2015, but it had been resolved.

"The QBCC began a financial audit of Cleary Group Pty Ltd in March this year, after receiving a number of monies owed complaints in the same month," the spokesperson said.

"We investigated 17 monies owed complaints valued at more than $285,000.

"Since the company has gone into liquidation, we've started the legal process that will see the director banned from influential company positions within the industry for three years. If the director is involved in another construction company insolvency, they can be banned for life."

Cleary Group director Craig Cleary said he had put $650,000 of his own assets into the company to try and get it through its difficulties but that the industry regulator had not wanted to work with it.

"I have not put money away," he said. "I'm not the bloke who does that.

"It's terrible. I've tried to do the right thing. I talk to contractors every day."

Plumber Steve Atkins, of SJ Atkins Plumbing, said he had been left owed $129,000.

He borrowed money from family to ensure his business remained strong and re-mortgaged his home to absorb the impact of the loss.

Mr Atkins said he had known Mr Cleary for 35 years, the pair growing up together and playing rugby league for Maroochydore where both their boys now played in the senior grades.

"I've heard nothing about how we will be paid," he said.

What was certain, Mr Atkins said, was that it was untenable for him to have a personal presence on another building site where Mr Cleary was now working on projects he had transferred from his company.

"I don't go to the job or take direction from him," Mr Atkins said.

The owner of that construction company said he offered Mr Cleary a position as a favour to help out a mate.

"When my wife and child were killed in a car accident Craig was there for me and offered me a job," he said.

"I took him on as a friend when I needed a supervisor.

"He's definitely not a partner in my business."