Taratahi Institute of Agriculture. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

The former staff of Taratahi Institute of Agriculture near Masterton are to get a payment in the next week or so.

David Ruscoe and Malcolm Moore of Grant Thornton were appointed as interim liquidators of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre [Wairarapa] Trust Board on December 19 and became full liquidators on February 5.

In a letter dated July 2 to a former staff member, they say a distribution to preferential creditors will happen within two weeks.

Ruscoe didn’t return callson Friday but the first report he and Moore made public in March said employees had preferential entitlements at the date of liquidation estimated to total $2.09 million. Inland Revenue also have a preferential claim of $655,000.

Staff are, by law, preferential creditors up to the value of $23,960 and then they become unsecured creditors.

Taratahi employed 250 staff, of whom 35 to 45 worked at Telford, the campus near Balclutha, in the South Island.

Staff were paid up until January 9, so they are owed pay from when they were suspended until the full liquidation on February 5, holiday pay and redundancy pay.

There’s also speculation they may be owed pay for a notice period from the liquidation.

Kris Smith, an organiser with the Tertiary Education Union, said what is owed depends on a person’s contract and most people at Taratahi were on individual contracts so she doesn’t know the details.

“People at Telford had good employment terms and conditions, people at Taratahi didn’t,” Smith said.

A few staff in Wairarapa were kept on to keep assets running until they were sold, and they were on employment conditions that were not as good as previously.

She said it is good that staff were getting some money, and it would be a relief to them, but it has been a long wait.

After the costs of a liquidation, secured creditors and preferential creditors are paid first, and then unsecured creditors.

The report signalled preferential liabilities will be paid in full.

There are 1194 unsecured creditor claims totalling $15,863m and there has been no estimate of payments to them.

The secured creditors were listed as Westpac, CSG Finance, HJ Asmuss and Co, Fuji Xerox Finance Ltd, NZ Farmers Livestock Ltd, Ricoh Finance, Sgfleet NZ, and Swanndri New Zealand.

Staff initially had their pay suspended without being made redundant, which caused uncertainty but they ultimately lost their jobs.

The liquidators are known to have sold the sheep and beef farm Mangarata.

The payment comes as there is considerable speculation Cabinet will consider a paper on polytechnic reforms on Monday.

National has previously seen a leak and said the government is intending to go further than it has said and polytechs will be controlled by a head office.

They will have their cash and community legacy assets ring-fenced. All other assets, including buildings and land, would be taken away and consolidated, National said.