Macey Hartshorn was just 12-years-old when Walton Construction collapsed costing her father his business and the family its home.
Macey Hartshorn was just 12-years-old when Walton Construction collapsed costing her father his business and the family its home. Patrick Woods

What happens to families when builders don't pay

MACEY Hartshorn was just 12 years old when Walton Construction collapsed costing her father his business, the family its home and she her pony.

Because her father Beau was a signatory to her bank account, the $400 she had diligently saved was lost in the liquidation too.

Now on the cusp of university, where she will study law with the goal of one day becoming a judge, the damage caused to her family and the disruption to her own childhood still hangs heavily over her.

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In her final year of high school, she wrote about that time and its impacts in an essay that gives even more strength to the call to clean up the construction industry and bring payment security to the entire contractual chain.

It's an insight into what happens inside the homes of thousands of small business people left damaged by slow and non-payment in an industry where such practices are rife.

Beau and Kerry Hartshorn in Eumundi.
Beau and Kerry Hartshorn in Eumundi. John McCutcheon

"We were happy - living a life doing what we enjoyed," she recalled in her essay.

"Then, one day, Dad received a new quote for a big project from a building company called Walton Construction. It was for the new Coles supermarket complex in Nambour.

"He worked hard and prepared a quote, sent it into the builder and received an offer to landscape the property. Mum and Dad were really excited, this was one of the biggest projects they had done and the payment and publicity it would bring would allow the business to expand.

"It was a long project, seeming to the young Macey to last for years, but slowly it was getting closer and closer to completion, Dad's work days were getting longer and longer, but the fact a big pay day was approaching kept him motivated.

"As the last week of landscaping came to an end, Dad was determined to finish this job as his best work yet. The day before the grand opening, Dad didn't come home until 3am, as he was desperate to ensure everything was perfect.

"But he had done it - he finished the project in time and did an outstanding job. Even the owner of Walton Construction himself, Craig Walton, showered Dad with praise.

"When it came to pay day, Dad didn't get paid. It soon became apparent that Walton Construction was having serious cash-flow problems.

"Other businesses that had worked for Walton Construction were talking, saying they hadn't received payment either. Rumours were going around and none of them seemed good.

"The rumours stopped when everyone found out what had actually happened - Walton Construction had entered into voluntary administration, and we weren't going to get paid. Not a cent.

"Dad came home that day crushed. He hadn't yet told us the full extent of what had happened. How was he meant to tell his family that we had lost everything?

"I can't actually recall what happened when Mum and Dad told me - I think I've blocked that part out - but I can recall how upset I was. I should have stopped it, I told myself.

"I could have done something. I could have told Dad not to take the job, warned him that something bad would happen.

"Obviously I had no way of knowing this could all have unfolded as it did, but nevertheless I felt an immense amount of guilt.

"Mum and Dad tried to keep working, to pay suppliers and finish their other current jobs. However, they were unable to save Earthscapes after losing over half a million dollars, and so it went into liquidation, which shattered Dad.

"It was horrible seeing him like that, a broken man. Through no fault of his own, he had uprooted our lives.

"We had to sell everything we owned - our house, his car, and most devastatingly to him, my horses.

"If it wasn't for my amazing family, who took us in and have housed us ever since, we would be homeless. I honestly couldn't thank them enough for everything they have done for us over the years.

"Even while writing this I've still found myself in the grips of anger and frustration, completely and utterly outraged this was able to happen.

"There is one positive that has come from this trauma, and that is my passion for law and justice. I am committed to righting wrongs, to making sure that there is equal justice for everyone.

"Not a day goes past where I don't think about what happened to my family or the injustices that occur through the world, and how these should have been prevented.

"These views are shaped almost solely by this experience, and it really has made me into the person I am today. I know that one day I will make a difference."

The Walton Construction Queensland liquidation left subcontractors working on the Nambour Coles job owed $3 million.

Queensland-wide debts of $30 million impacted 600 subcontractors, suppliers.

Macey's essay has been condensed for space reasons.



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