A $ 12 million hardship fund for small businesses affected by the City Rail Link work announced today was well received, but it came too late for a restaurateur who lost his business to the project.
“I don’t want to talk about it, I’m too upset,” said Antony Ariano, who closed his Italian restaurant Da Vinci in July and has since incurred legal fees to get out of his lease.
Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick said she would be really surprised if Ariano couldn’t claim relief from unpaid bills, given the fund is backdated to February.
Antony Ariano who closed his Italian restaurant Da Vinci’s in July. Photo / File
âThe main goal now is to get that immediate relief and to try to help Antonio recover the payments for all of these bills,â she said.
The work of the CRL at the edge of town caused mental and financial stress on many businesses, with traders equating the construction work with a “war zone”.
Many businesses, including Da Vinci’s restaurant and the famous Mai Thai restaurant, have closed their doors. Others are on the brink.
Shobhana Ranchhodji, who owns a Roma Blooms on Albert Street, said the distress fund was a “little ray of hope,” but until she saw how it was being run, she wouldn’t know how. it is a positive or a negative element.
Albert Shobhana Ranchhodji street florist has lost much of her business due to the Auckland City Rail Link project. Photo / Dean Purcell
The florist said it was essential that the fund be administered by an independent body and not by City Rail Link Ltd, the joint government and council body set up to manage the huge transport project.
Ranchhodji said CRL’s work has affected so many businesses and their families on their physical and mental well-being.
“They stole us five and a half years (since the start of the work) and we will never get it back,” she said.
Transport Minister Michael Wood and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff have announced that they will set aside $ 12 million over the next two years for companies suffering real hardship and affected by long disruption caused by City Rail Link’s $ 4.4 billion work.
Minister of Transport Michael Wood. Photo / Alex Burton
The detailed criteria for receiving financial assistance are still being finalized, but in the meantime interim payments will be made to companies and backdated to February. Companies will need to provide proof that they meet the eligibility criteria.
A previous trade hardship program paid $ 617,178 to 25 companies, but it only applied to delays in the first stage of CRL work from Britomart and Albert Street to Wyndham Street.
There are still three years of construction on the main contract to build twin tunnels, two underground stations at Albert St, called Aotea, Karangahape Rd, and a new aboveground station at Mt Eden.
Wood said the Auckland government and council have listened to business, saying it was unfortunate that hardship support was not put in place before the project was set up and started in 2016.
The work of City Railk Link has had a financial and mental impact on traders. Photo / Dean Purcell
âI expect large urban projects like the Auckland Tramway to have hardship programs created in advance,â he said.
Goff said in the interest of fairness for small businesses whose livelihoods are threatened by disruption, a targeted hardship fund is essential.
It will cost taxpayers and taxpayers $ 6 million each with a review at the end of next year for the next two years, he said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. Photo / File
Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck, who has been pushing for a hardship fund on behalf of businesses since 2019, hailed the hardship fund “overdue” but said the devil would be in the details.
âFinancial support is desperately needed for the companies that have been massively affected by this large-scale, long-term project, and we hope this will provide the relief needed,â said Beck, who asked an independent panel to determine how the program will be work.
She said the situation with CRL could not be repeated and was delighted to hear that support for large-scale projects, like the light rail, has been confirmed.
Heart of the City CEO Viv Beck. Photo / File
Swarbrick said business financial assistance couldn’t come soon enough and thanked the minister and mayor for coming to the table.
Wood said there will be a significant increase in value to homeowners once the project is completed and that landlords expect landlords to support tenants as well.
âI recognize that some owners have already provided relief and I hope that will continue,â he said.