History Repeats With The Auckland City Rail Link ‘Targeted Hardship Fund’

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Opinion – Sunny Kaushal

While the funds made available in todays announcement is a welcome step to fix this outstanding issue, hoping it would provide necessary relief, but given the past experience the Central Government and Auckland Council are strongly urged making …

While the funds made available in today’s announcement is a welcome step to fix this outstanding issue, hoping it would provide necessary relief, but given the past experience the Central Government and Auckland Council are strongly urged making all the affected business whether operating or those closed in entire Albert street and surrounding areas eligible to access the targeted hardship fund irrespective of the CRL’s fancy terms i.e. C1, C2, C3 etc, and ensure the funds are administered independently and appropriately under a ministerial supervision to avoid repetition of an unfair process witnessed before.

The government is being warned that leopards do not change their spots off news that Auckland’s City Rail Link will deliver a “Targeted Hardship Fund.”

“This is sadly history repeating itself,” says Sunny Kaushal who owns the Shakespeare on Albert Street.

“In 2019, the government announced a ‘Business Hardship Fund’ to support businesses with rents that became a sick joke. There was no independent valuation and no business contact to determine the impact of CRL on affected businesses.

“It was arbitrary, underhanded and administered by the City Rail Link. Leopards don’t change their spot and four years on it is very much Groundhog Day.

“It’s also ironic the new “Targeted Hardship Fund” came on the same day Auckland Council put out a sterile image of Queen Street devoid of shops. The government wins the trifecta, because its transport and infrastructure committee this week wants congestion charges to add to our misery.

“When Auckland’s planners and the City Rail Link stripped out traffic, it made Albert Street and now Victoria Street a magnet for low-level squalor that deters shoppers. It’s got worse and has spilt into Queen Street with Bayleys saying recently that almost one in ten shops are now empty.

“There was no plan as they were shown to have no clue of business.

“That Bayleys report was also after Covid 1.0. As we are now into Covid 2.0 and we’ve lost almost a month’s trade that we cannot afford, things are grim and we need cash now.

“That’s why all businesses walloped by the City Rail Link and are still trading, should be granted an immediate payment of $10,000 from this Fund if they employ 50 of fewer staff. We need money now and not a repeat of the last ‘hardship fund’ debacle run by the City Rail Link.

“We want the government to treat all the affected businesses equally whether they are in the designated areas or not. That includes those who have been forced to close like the restaurants, Mai Thai, Grasshopper and Da Vinci and a number of other businesses.

“The human toll of this is huge. It’s the callous disregard for people with a lack of empathy disgusts me. All of our businesses have been badly treated and we’ve waited for equal justice and solutions for far too long.

“There is an opportunity to fix it for once and all. It is a right thing to do. It is why we want Heart of the City to made responsible for Targeted Hardship Fund in a private/public partnership. We trust Heart of the City but we do not trust the City Rail Link,” Mr Kaushal said.

We recommend that with the Targeted Hardship Fund the Minister of Transport:

  • Contracts Heart of the City Incorporated to develop criteria to be approved by the Ministry of Transport and to deliver the Targeted Hardship Fund.
  • Make an immediate $10,000 payment to all businesses that have been affected by the City Rail Link, that employ 50 or fewer staff and were trading on 2 September 2021.
  • Defer the implementation of congestion charging until 12-months after pedestrian street counts in Queen Street return to their pre-covid levels.
  • Commit to make payments to businesses that have been forced to close due to the City Rail Link.
  • Institute a Ministerial inquiry into the former Business Hardship Programme and the City Rail Link’s engagement with residents and businesses.

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