Preliminary liquidators' report on dross recycler

Southland aluminium dross recycler Taha Asia Pacific, which suddenly went into liquidation eight days ago, has limited funds and 69 known creditors to date, the preliminary liquidators' report says.

Among the creditors are 21 employees and 43 unsecured creditors, most of them Southland businesses.

Since 2011, Taha has recycled aluminium dross from the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter process on-site, extracting the aluminium and sending it back to the plant for reprocessing.

Taha planned to further process the remaining material, known as Ouvea premix, into mineral fertiliser.

However, smelter owner New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) did not renew Taha's five-year contract. It ran out at 8am last Monday and, on instructions from Taha founder and director Frank Pollmann, who lives in Bahrain, the company went into liquidation the following morning.

In their report released yesterday, liquidators Rhys Cain and Rees Logan, from Ernst and Young, said Taha had $10,687.78c in the bank and had placed a further $3000 in a solicitor's trust account to be paid to the liquidators. The recycling plant at Tiwai also had a value yet to be verified, they said.

Seven secured creditors are owed $1.49million. They include Westpac Bank, plumbing suppliers Mico New Zealand, and vehicle leasing company FleetPartners NZ.

The unsecured creditors include legal and accounting firms, trades companies, equipment retailers and suppliers, service companies, a drycleaner's and a cafe, Enviroment Southland, the Gore District Council, and NZAS.

Most of the employees have been employed by NZAS temporarily. The liquidators said they were working with the employees to tally wages and other entitlements owing.

''At this stage we are unable to determine if, or when, a payment may be able to be made to employees for their preferential claims, as it will largely be determined by [money raised] from asset sales and the amounts required to clear secured creditors.''

The liquidators said Taha was offered a short-term extension to its contract by NZAS but declined because the contract price offered would have resulted in Taha operating at a loss.

They questioned NZAS' decision to end Taha's contract before a new recycler was in place.

''Despite there being no contractual obligation to provide a specific length of notice, more notice time would have enabled the company to organise an orderly exit from the smelter site and a seamless transition to a new provider.''

The liquidators said they had already been approached by potential buyers for the recycling plant and were in the early stages of discussions with them.

''The most logical buyer of the fixed assets would be the incoming service provider. However, NZAS have still not yet finalised who that new service provider will be.''

Ouvea Premix is classified as a hazardous material. If it becomes wet it can give off highly corrosive ammonia gas, known to be a serious health and safety risk.

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