Byron Bay Cookie Company leaves trail of debt, job loss

DOZENS of local suppliers are out of pocket after the Byron Bay Cookie Company's manufacturing arm went into voluntary administration last Thursday.

More than 170 businesses are owed money including many on the Northern Rivers, with the hardest hit locally being Byron IT company Crystal Tec which has $16,000 outstanding.

Other creditors include: Kemps Lismore $12,952.81; Cape Byron Plumbing $8,892.72; Byron Electrical $6,231; and Byron Bay Community Association $2,365.

Twelve jobs were lost last week and an employee has said there were grave fears among the remaining 70 casual staff that their positions could go in a month if liquidators are unable to turn around the company's fortunes.

Administrators from Lawler Partners Chartered Accountants arrived at the company's Byron Industrial Estate factory with the Sydney based general manager Jacqueline Schurig last Thursday, the day after it was revealed that the company was in trouble with the Australian Taxation Office which is owed $1.3 million.

Eight local full-time workers were told their jobs had been axed, some of whom have worked for the company for 17 of its 23 years.

Four workers at the company's Sydney officer were also fired.

An employee told Byron Shire News:  "There were four woman crying and all the others were in total shock. There were no apology words or thanks for the workers who left."

In hindsight there were some clues to the company's financial position, with cookie ingredients lacking over the last 18 months due to the company's failure to pay its bills.

"The company method was changing suppliers instead of paying bills," the worker said.

Employees discovered at the beginning of 2012 that they had not been paid superannuation for two years.

"The fact that we were not getting paid our superannuation was discovered accidently as it was written on our payslips that the money was paid," the source said.

In a statement, Ms Schurig said its board had "exhausted all avenues" prior to making the decision to appoint voluntary administrators.

The board was confident the business had a future and saw this as an opportunity to restructure its manufacturing division, she said.

According to the administrators, the company also owes $2.7 million to unsecured creditors plus further amounts to its secured creditors and employees.

John Vouris from Lawler Partners said the company would likely be restructured or sold.

The first meeting of creditors will be held in Tweed Heads on March 19.

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