Hawkins workers gagged in SFO site swoop

Workers back on the job at the Hobson St site - but under orders not to talk

Workers are back on the job at Auckland's Hobson St substation – disrupted by a Serious Fraud Office swoop involving one of the country’s biggest construction companies, Hawkins Construction.

But they are tightlipped about the events there in recent days.

“We’re not allowed to talk to the media”, said one site worker approached by NBR ONLINE. “We’ll get our hands smacked.”

The SFO will not yet reveal why it entered the construction site on lower Hobson St in Auckland’s CBD, seizing computers and sending workers home.

It has confirmed a formal investigation has begun, and that it is being treated as a “priority case” because of its public profile.

Hawkins Construction is contracting to Vector and Transpower for the substation’s $46 million redevelopment.

The company confirmed work recommenced at the Hobson St site this morning after discussions with Vector and Transpower, and says it is committed to completing the project as planned.

Hawkins’ executive general manager Dan Ashby says the SFO’s arrival was a surprise on Friday.

He understands the investigation relates only to the Hobson St site and not the company as a whole.

Questioned by NBR ONLINE, Mr Ashby said he had no further details and today his telephone has been on answerphone.

A statement just released by public relations firm Hotwire on behalf of Hawkins says the company is taking the Serious Fraud Office investigation "extremely seriously" and is co-operating fully with the SFO.

The rest of its business and other projects are unaffected by the investigation, the statement says.

"Hawkins does not intend to make any further comment while the Serious Fraud Office investigation is under way."

Hawkins Construction’s head office is in Parnell, Auckland.

Major construction projects it has been involved in include the AMI Stadium in Christchurch, Novotel Hotel Auckland Airport, Hilton Hotel Queenstown, Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, the Britomart East office complex in Auckland and restoration of the Auckland Art Gallery,

Yesterday afternoon: 

Hawkins Construction says the surprise Serious Fraud Office investigation relates to one of its major projects only, not the company as a whole.

The construction site at the Hobson St substation in Auckland's CBD remains on lockdown today after the SFO issued search warrants and sent workers home at midday on Friday.

Hawkins is working on the substation’s $46 million redevelopment for Vector and Transpower.

Hawkins Construction executive general manager Dan Ashby says he understands the SFO is not investigating Hawkins’ wider operations.

“It’s not an investigation of the business as a whole. We understand it’s specific to a site,” he says.

He hoped to learn more about the SFO's investigation today.

Hawkins, part of the McConnell Group, is one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned construction companies.

9:30am: Construction industry giant Hawkins Construction says a fraud investigation at its premises on a major project has come as a complete surprise.

Serious Fraud Office investigators served search warrants at the Hobson St Substation redevelopment in Auckland's CBD at midday on Friday, locking it down and sending workers home.

Hawkins is working on the  $46 million project for Transpower and Vector to reinforce power supply to Auckland CBD.

The SFO confirmed it issued search warrants at the site on Friday but will not release further details about the nature of its investigation.

Hawkins is referring questions about Friday’s events to public relations firm Hotwire PR.

Hotwire’s general manager Hamish Anderson says there is no new information about the investigation this morning.

“Discussion is progressing between the parties.”

A statement released on behalf of Hawkins on Friday said:

“The serving of a search warrant by the Serious Fraud Office at a construction site it is working on for Vector and Transpower in central Auckland has come as a complete surprise.

“The company says it is taking this development extremely seriously and will co-operate fully with the Serious Fraud Office, Vector and Transpower.”

Vector was quick to distance itself from the investigation.

“It’s our understanding that the SFO investigation does not involve Vector or Transpower,” Vector said in a Friday statement.

“Vector and Transpower remain focused on completing this project so that security of supply into the CBD and North Shore will be enhanced.”

Hawkins is part of the McConnell Group, one of New Zealand's largest privately owned construction, property and infrastructure groups.

It is owned by interests associated with John and David McConnell.

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