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CBD businesses 'decimated' by City Rail Link plead for compensation

Small business owners in the heart of Auckland’s CBD are pleading for help after being driven to the edge by the City Rail Link project.

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Years of construction with minimal support has prompted business owners to take to the streets. Source: 1 NEWS

Five years of construction through the central city streets has left downtown Auckland resembling a “war zone”, with work not expected to finish until 2024. 

Now businesses left hanging by a thread are calling on the Auckland Council and Government to help keep them afloat. 

Sunny Kaushal, owner of the Shakespeare Restaurant and Brewery, says their lives have been “shattered” with many having no option but to shut up shop.

“A few businesses have already closed and for the ones that survive, every day is a challenge,” he told 1 NEWS. 

“I have not given up yet but I’m sitting on the edge, anybody else in my place would’ve closed two years ago.” 

Viv Beck, Heart of the City CEO, says that businesses are in dire need of compensation with several years left to go on the project. 

“What they’re looking for is help to survive this, they’re not asking for unreasonable compensation for lost revenue and trauma – what they’re asking for is a share in revenue to help them survive.” 

She says there have been multiple attempts from business owners to get decision makers from the Government and the Council but to no avail. 

“The impacts are devastating and the issue is, they’re not getting heard.”

The $4.4 billion rail project - creating a 3.5-kilometre link between Britomart and Mt Eden - has been hard to ignore as construction closes off many streets through the CBD.

Minister of Transport Michael Wood said he has had a number of talks with Heart of the City about the City Rail Link’s impact on the area.

“I have had a number of discussions with Heart of the City about the City Rail Link’s impacts on the C3 area. They have also put forward a significant proposal which would see $50 million in compensation to local businesses and I undertook to review this. The work is ongoing and I’ve been in discussion with officials, ministerial colleagues, CRLL and Auckland Council on these issues.

"The previous government did not create a process or budget for business compensation when the project was first set up, so given this and the scale of the request, we are carefully working through it.

"CRLL is continuing to manage business disruptions through a number of initiatives, including using procuring from local businesses where possible and setting up signage.”

A spokesperson for the Auckland mayoral office told Stuff CRL Ltd has provided $617,000 in direct financial support to businesses impacted by construction delays on lower Albert St.

Shobhana Ranchhodji, manager of Blooms Florist on Albert St, says business has been “severely impacted” by the roadworks. 

“All those customers who bought and supported us are no longer coming through our doors, driven away by the constant construction going on around us. 

“Their message of this is plain, this project will benefit the community –  who cares about the businesses we have to sacrifice in their place.”

Early Childhood Centre Lollipops on Kingston Street once had a roll of more than 100 children, but since construction began that’s dwindled down to less than 50. 

Evolve Education chief operating officer Craig Presland says his business has been decimated, left paying expensive rents as revenue declines. 

“We’re really struggling here to remain commercially viable at the centre,” he told 1 NEWS. 

“Access to the centre is very very difficult now, let alone with the noise and disruption that’s been going on for five years.”