City Rail Link: Impacted businesses demand answers from decision makers
Businesses facing the imminent closure of the Albert/Victoria Street intersection will gather in demonstration on the steps of Auckland Council on Thursday 17 June at 9am, asking for those accountable for the CRL project to make a decision on financial relief.
Hon Michael Wood, Hon Stuart Nash, Mayor Phil Goff and Sir Brian Roche have been invited to meet with them to discuss the significant impacts that the City Rail Link has on small businesses in the area.
Viv Beck, Heart of the City Chief Executive says, “These people have had enough. Their needs continue to be ignored and they face more disruption ahead. Requests for a decision on financial relief for the remainder of the project have been left unanswered for months and multiple requests for visits to businesses have been ignored.”
“If this was a workplace, you would not contemplate leaving people to deal with this level of stress without help. There has been no compassion or respect shown for them and that needs to change. These are hard-working people who just want a fair go.”
“This is not rocket science, it’s about providing financial relief so businesses can get through to the end of this project. There are models already in place that can be adapted, there is no excuse for the slow response.”
In March 2020, Minister Wood was responsive to a request from Heart of the City for financial support and advised that options are being looked at but time keeps marching on. Despite requests for updates, Heart of the City and impacted businesses are none the wiser as to what is happening and with no timeframe for a decision, time is running out for many businesses in the area. The major Albert Street/Victoria Street intersection closure, which is happening at the end of the month for a period of two years, will bring more significant impact to the area.
Shobhana Ranchhodji, who owns Roma Blooms on the corner of Albert Street and Victoria Street, and has been dealing with the impacts of the project since 2016, says that “Our action is a result of inaction. We have been asking for decision makers to come and see us and talk with us about how we are impacted. Even Mayor Goff, who is our neighbour, hasn’t come to visit. We just want to be heard, and have some certainty for our future, yet those in the position of making decisions refuse to visit us. We want to know why.”
Tony’s Lord Nelson has been on Victoria Street for 40 years and owner Ann Hewlett says she wants the iconic business to be there for another 40 years. Hewlett says, “Government tells us how 2 important this project is for Auckland, and how important small businesses are for the country, yet they don’t seem to care about us. They need to front up and tell us why they don’t.”
Beck says the decision makers need to be held to account and answer questions like those posed below. “This is a matter of human decency - how can they just stand by and let these people suffer as if this is just a bit of inconvenience?”
- Minister Wood
- When will you make a decision on a financial relief programme for businesses?
- Your officials have been asked to move quickly on other issues, why not this one?
- Surely with Light Rail under discussion, you would want to have solutions in place
- Mayor Goff:
- Why haven’t you met with impacted businesses to understand the impacts of construction on them?
- What action have you taken with the Government to support these businesses?
- Minister Nash:
- Aside from expressing your sympathy for their plight, what action have you taken to support these small businesses?
- Sir Brian Roche:
- Has CRLL told the Government that these businesses are in severe distress and need financial support?
Heart of the City and the Albert Street businesses hope that those who have been invited to Thursday’s event will attend and front up to answer the questions that so desperately need answering.
Notes to Editors:
- After significant lobbying in 2019, CRLL set up a hardship fund in late 2019 for the C2 contract. The scheme paid out significantly less than the Sydney Light Rail small business assistance package. The C2 works are now complete.
- Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee in March 2020, recommended that the Government:
- “Moves swiftly to consider and develop policies that will assist businesses where there is long-term business disruption.
- Considers how the Albert Street businesses can be fairly supported or compensated which may require increasing the overall funding for the project.”
- October 2020, Minister Twyford says that no further action will be taken.
- January 2020: After discussions with Minister Nash, Heart of the City submitted a proposal for a business hardship scheme for the C3 contract works.
- March 2021: Minister Wood asked the Ministry of Transport to look at options for providing financial support to affected businesses and said he will be in active discussions with the Ministry of Transport on this.
- Mid June 2021, there has been no indication of when a decision will be made and requests to meet impacted businesses have not been taken up.
- Mayor Goff has said he supports Minister Wood’s action.