The owner of one of New Zealand's oldest pubs says more than a hundred families have "had their lives shattered" by Auckland City Rail Link construction - with compensation for lost business refused again this week.
Sunny Kaushal owns the 120-year-old Shakespeare Hotel along Albert St in Auckland's CDB and has major roadwork for the $4.4 billion project blocking off the entire street just metres from his door.
In an official meeting on Wednesday with City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL) executives, affected small business owners were again told they would not be offered financial compensation for lost revenue - amounting to $1 million plus for some businesses.
"All we can do is a whole range of things around how the construction interacts and impacts with the retailers. We can't take it away," CRLL CEO Sean Sweeney said.
In April, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff indicated that the council would neither front up for compensation, or a rates holiday, saying it was not in line with current or past practice.
Yet, Kaushal estimates the Shakespeare has lost $1.5m in revenue from the CRL works.
"The street has become isolated and abandoned. It has lost its foot traffic. The businesses, they were left to die a slow death," he said.
"Auckland Council is not taking responsibility, CRLL is not taking responsibility. Who else will take the responsibility? They are the reason that over 100 families have had their lives shattered."
National's Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye said the dozens of languishing businesses sets a worrying precedent for future government infrastructure projects.
"There's extraordinary financial hardship and we've got to get the policy right otherwise we're going to have these situations in other projects," Kaye said.
The CRL is a joint project between the council and government, which set up CRLL last year to oversee the mammoth construction job, which involves a cut and cover trench up Albert St and boring the underground twin rail tunnels the rest of the 3.4km route to Mt Eden.
In early April, CRLL chief executive Sweeney said there was not a single dollar in the then $3.4b budget for compensation and to date no compensation had been paid.
A few weeks later, on April 17, it was announced the CRL cost had soared to $4.419b, as CRLL announced the successful bidder to build the bulk of the 3.4km underground railway.
The decision to refuse compensation by the Government and Auckland Council, has especially angered Albert St business owners after a $63m bailout for Eden Park and $29m in compensation for one of the world's largest recycling companies, Visy, was approved last year by the council.
In April, Goff would not say why big businesses like Eden Park and Visy get bailed out, but small businesses get nothing.
The owner of a souvenir shop on Albert St, who did not want to be named, said business fell rapidly when construction work started in mid 2017. She laid off staff, fell behind with rent and estimates losses of nearly $500,000.
"Sometimes I borrowed money from my husband and family to support the business," she said through an interpreter and shop assistant, who said she had pushed herself to the limit.
Chinese-born Kingna Yu has been trying to sell her Japanese restaurant in a small lane off Albert St to focus on her health after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
After paying nearly $300,000 for the business in 2014, she was prepared to take a big loss when putting it on the market - but nobody wanted to buy it.
Rakesh Chauhan invested $500,000 setting up a smart supermarket on the corner of Albert and Wyndham Sts just before work began on the deep trench for twin underground tunnels.
Today, he does not take any income from the business and cannot afford staff. His elderly parents get up at 4.30am, seven days a week, and travel 37km from Karaka to the city to work at the supermarket until the doors close at 10.30pm.
"Nobody in this city works like this," said Chauhan, who uses money from three Indian restaurants he owns to keep the supermarket open. The bank has stopped giving him money.
In April, Goff said CRLL was working with businesses and had a number of activities underway to support them during the construction process.
Sweeney, who has previously said compensation is bad public policy because it becomes a feeding frenzy and a lot of lawyers get involved, said CRLL was working on the obligations under its resource consent to "avoid, remedy or mitigate disruption to businesses".
That had has included everything from good communications, engaging early and often, hoarding displays, business packs with access to advice and initiatives like heritage tours and food promotions.