Central Auckland business owners plead with government for hardship fund as CRL construction drives customers away

A group of Auckland business owners have joined together to plead for government hardship assistance as delayed City Rail Link (CRL) construction on Albert Street drives customers away.

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Business owners say customers are few and far between, and a promised hardship fund needs to come now. Source: 1 NEWS

Several business owners demonstrated on Albert Street today, with an affected florist providing bouquets to symbolise the death of the businesses.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Stuff last week that he had already proposed a hardship fund to help businesses facing "exceptional" hardship due to the CRL.

He said government approval would be needed to establish such a fund, and that paying compensation like this for a public work would be unprecedented.

Now, several months have passed since the suggestion was made to government.

Construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) project on Albert Street in Auckland. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

A spokesperson for Phil Twyford's office told Stuff that, rather than focusing on the individual request, they were instead considering it "as part of a wider policy process on how businesses affected by infrastructure projects can be assisted".

They also said they are offering "practical assistance" to affected business owners, but the protestors today said this could be too little, too late.

Spokesperson Sunny Kaushal, who owns the Shakepeare Hotel and Brewery, said owners are already "struggling day by day.

"We are unable to pay our rents, we are not able to pay the wages to our staff," Mr Kaushal said.

"It's a real hard situation, very unprecedented, and it's beyond our control.

"The central government and the Auckland Council, they need to come forward - we need financial support at this stage to survive our daily routine, otherwise we cannot open our doors tomorrow."

A worker at the City Rail Link (CRL) work site on Albert street, with a sign in front reading "businesses open as usual". Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

Roma Flowers on Albert Street owner Shobhana​ Ranchhodji​ said, to a business, staff are everything, and that it's becoming increasingly difficult for affected businesses to retain the staff they have invested time and training into.

"We're losing our staff because we cannot afford to pay our staff," Ms Ranchhodji said.

"We just find it so hard - we're struggling."

Her message to Transport Minister Phil Twyford was: "You promised us a hardship fund - we've got the hardship - still waiting on the fund."

The City Rail Link (CRL) work site on Albert street, viewed from the south, looking into the tunnel trench. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

Lawyer Jeff Walters of K3 Legal said he is now acting on a pro-bono basis for the business owners seeking compensation.

Backfilling of the tunnel trench was due to be completed by October this year, but CRLL head Sean Sweeney has said the project is running months behind schedule.

The CRL project is due to be completed by the end of 2024.

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