In the black and white formality of a liquidator’s report it is easy just to see numbers.
But the human cost of a collapsed company is something completely different.
Campbell Romeril, of Seaview Cottage Construction Ltd. Photo: Supplied
It is a nice house, with sea views, a lovely garden and an even nicer retired couple living there.
The roof leaks a bit, as the man who was to repair it did not return their phone calls.
But the couple may have to sell the home, after pouring almost $1 million into a collapsed building company operated by the same man.
“We were stupid,’’ the woman said.
The Dunedin couple, who once won more than $2 million on Lotto, poured almost $900,000 into a collapsed building firm which has left a trail of creditors and unanswered questions for director Campbell ‘Cam’ Romeril.
The legal fallout from that collapsed company, Seaview Cottage Construction Ltd, may see the couple - who have requested privacy due to major health issues - be forced to sell their home.
“It is gone . . . it has all gone,’’ the woman said of their former winnings.
“It has all gone to custard.’’
That is a far cry from when the couple set-up the company with Romeril and his wife Kim, who is separated from him, in 2017.
Campbell Romeril, of Seaview Cottage Construction Ltd, feeds his kunekune. Photo: Supplied
The couple first met Romeril, who was working as a builder for a project management company on their former heritage home in Roslyn.
“He did a lot of good stuff for us, so he built-up trust very quickly,’’ the woman said.
“But retrospectively he talked a lot . . . but didn’t do a lot.’’
At its peak, the company employed 20 people, had a fleet of vans, branded clothes, held a board meeting in the Cook Islands, and had secured a contract for the Department of Conservation (DoC) on Stewart Island.
Questions to DoC about that company were now being treated as an Official Information Act request.
Seaview Cottage Construction Ltd was put into liquidation in July 2020.
A liquidator report from October revealed it owed $738,723.62, including $274,252.65 to Inland Revenue.
The retired couple, who both have health issues, now face an uncertain financial future. That uncertainty differed to when they won about $2 million in Lotto over a decade ago.
The couple were careful with their money, enjoyed overseas trips and planned to invest in real estate.
Homes at St Clair catch some sun. Photo Alden Williams/Stuff
Alongside Romeril they planned to buy houses, which Romeril would renovate, and then on-sell in the booming Dunedin property market.
Instead, Romeril quickly turned his focus to “big dreams and big projects’’, the woman said.
That included the purchase of a large central Dunedin property on Melville St.
The idea was to put nine smaller townhouses on the site, “which seemed too grand’’, the man said.
“But Cam wouldn’t listen.’’
The couple lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on the early sale of the Melville St project as they used the proceeds to pay-off the company’s mounting debts.
“I was quite concerned from the beginning, because I had access to the accounting system,’’ the man, a former accountant, said.
‘“His overheads were extremely large for the size of the company.’’
Campbell Romeril makes a speech. Photo: Supplied
Romeril, for example, bought new Toyota vans for about $48,000 each. The woman was initially proud to see those vehicles with the sign writing of a company she was involved with, driving around Dunedin.
Meanwhile Romeril, who was still to complete repairs to the couple’s leaking roof, “has just ignored all of our calls”.
But the woman had a message for him:
“Get in here and finish the job, and what the hell do you think you are doing ripping people off?’’
“How do you sleep at night?’’
Romeril told Stuff it hadn’t been easy.
“I’ve lost everything’’.
That included his companies, livelihood, house and marriage, while his mental health had been impacted.
“I’m in no position to blame anyone.’’
Like the couple, he conceded the company “grew too big too quickly’’, and at one point was turning over $300,000 a month.
“When people tell you how well you are doing . . . it is a very seductive trap.’’
To help with that transition the company recruited staff “"to bridge that gap and knowledge’’.
“As it turns out, we made some truly atrocious hiring decisions.’’
He alleged a senior manager was giving him different accounts of the company’s performance, while he was busy focusing on the DoC project.
“That’s when it all turned to kak.’’
That included Seaview. His other company Thrive Homes, which the couple was not involved with, also collapsed owing $167,938.
Thrive Homes, he claimed, was owed significantly more than what it owed - but to recoup that money would be “challenging’’.
That company was set-up to keep Seaview staff employed and continue some work obligations of Seaview.
But in a twist, Romeril alleged he was “ripped-off’’ by a business partner, forcing it to collapse.
He felt for those unsecured creditors: “it hurts, mate’’.
“I’m not going to come out of this smelling of roses and living in a flash house with a nice car in the driveway’’.
“I would have been better off working for wages the whole time.’’
Romeril, who was previously declared bankrupt in 2004, disputes the couple lost $900,000 and believed it was likely to be in the vicinity of $750,000.
He maintained the couple would not have to sell their house to cover the remaining $50,000, with the sale of his Long Beach property set for in the new year.
His lesson from the collapse of both companies was a cautionary tale for any business: “trust without checks and balances is dangerous’’.
“Start with a plan and stick to it.’’
The couple also had their own advice.
That included doing research on those you went into business with, she said.
Her husband urged people to be involved in the day-to-day management and “watch the cash and don’t overextend yourself’’.
Romeril, the couple alleged, did not put a cent into the company, but instead bled it – and them – of cash.
“The good bits were good, the bad bits were shit,’’ she said.
Thanks for reading this far.
I appreciate the feedback about the plight of Nick Chisholm who featured in last week’s newsletter. I’ve heard from dozens of people who have seemingly been abandoned by HealthCare New Zealand.
Watch. This. Space.
But I was also contacted by a reader who is sending Nick and his whānau a $100 voucher.
Sometimes you forget just how many good people there are out there.
But now for something depressing.
The Department of Conservation has revealed the initial counts of hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin nest have dropped from 181 breeding pairs last year to 166 this season.
The breeding pairs on the Otago Peninsula total just 17, the lowest recorded number since monitoring began in 1990.
With the nesting season going to March, people and their dogs should stay away from those nests.
And now it is time for Tweet of the Week. Congratulations Dr Michelle Moffat (you win nothing)
I had a busy weekend sitting on an excursion train cancelled due to Extinction Rebellion protesting against a coal train.
There were some allegations that the reason was political, with KiwiRail wanting to make the protesters look bad.
KiwiRail assures me that it was cancelled due to Health and Safety concerns. It will be interesting to see if these protests, which resulted in eight arrests, continue.
So instead of heading to ye olde Oamaru we headed to the awesome Flying Nun exhibition at the Hocken. A+ (especially the free posters . . . I hope they were free)
I wanted to steal these sooooo bad. Photo: Declined to be named
Here is a classic to see us out.
This needs to be sampled in a hiphop track.