Dave Daniels, owed money on the Caloundra Centre, aims to pursue Sunshine Coast Council for the $31,000 in retention money he is still owed as a matter of principle even though legal fees will cost him more than that amount. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Dave Daniels, owed money on the Caloundra Centre, aims to pursue Sunshine Coast Council for the $31,000 in retention money he is still owed as a matter of principle even though legal fees will cost him more than that amount. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Matter of principle: Subbie spends big to get money back

A CIVIL contractor owed $31,000 in retention money for work done to specification on the Caloundra Tennis Centre, feared it was now being used to fund Sunshine Coast Council changes to the original plans.

Dave Daniels, who runs the Yandina-based Daniels Civil, an earthmoving contractor, has engaged a lawyer to enforce a subcontractor charge on the council to release the money owed to him.

He said he was prepared to spend on legal costs more than the amount owed to force the issue, as a matter of principle after previously being left owed large amounts by failed builders.

Under Queensland's Building Industry Fairness Act, a subcontractor's charge is a way for unpaid subbies to secure a claim over monies owed to them by a contractor.

With the collapse of Ri-Con, Sunshine Coast Council held retention money that may have been owed in full or part to the builder for distributions to subbies who had completed their work to standard.

Mr Daniels has questioned whether work now taking place at the tennis centre was to repair defects, or just alterations to what he said may have been poor plans provided by the council to the now failed builder Ri-Con Contractors, which was awarded the $3.9m tender for the project.

He said normally where a dispute existed over work quality the industry regulator, Queensland Building and Construction Commission, was called in to adjudicate.

Sunshine Coast trade suppliers and subcontractors were left unpaid by Ri-Con to the tune of more than $3.6 million for work done and materials supplied to Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Gympie council projects.

Mr Daniels said the council was pulling out concrete slabs and putting in additional retaining walls and redoing other work that had been completed to plan.

"Who is authorising defects," he said. "They're polishing what had been an exposed concrete entrance.

"Is that a defect or are they burning up the retention account?

"Are they defects or a change of mind?

"I've said I have a subcontract charge with them. Council is saying there is nothing left. They have first dibs at money held for retentions. Technically they are spending my money."

The head contractor provides the client either a cash amount, a bank guarantee or a security bond equal to 5 per cent of the contract value to cover any defects in the finished work.

In turn, the contractor then retained, during the first half of a contract, 10 per cent of what subbies are owed.

The money is meant to be returned to subbies when the contract is completed to specification.

Subcontractors Alliance head Les Williams said the council had an obligation to use whatever retention bond it held correctly.

"Given the subcontractors charges are in place there needs to be independent oversight of how those funds are being used," he said.

Sunshine Coast Council failed to respond ahead of deadline to the following questions in relation to the Caloundra Tennis Centre project.


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