Bailouts for Visy and Eden Park but small firms are angry they’re getting nothing.

Business owners along the city centre route of Auckland's $3.4 billion City Rail Link are on the brink of financial ruin and paying a heavy personal toll.

One woman struggling to save her souvenir business is on medication for depression and an elderly Indian couple are working 110 hours a week to help their son who cannot afford to employ staff at his supermarket.

Sunny Kaushal, who runs the historic Shakespeare Tavern, said the disruption from dust, deafening noise and road closures along Albert St had gone on for nearly two years and would drag on until the end of next year.

"It's a war zone," said Kaushal, who is calling on City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL), Auckland Council and the Government for financial help to small business "dying a slow death".

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Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and City Rail Link Ltd chief executive Sean Sweeney are taking a hard line. Goff said the issues of compensation or a rates holiday were not in line with current or past practice. Sweeney said people would have to roll up their sleeves and take legal action under the Public Works Act to receive compensation.

There was not a single dollar in the $3.4 billion budget for compensation and to date no compensation had been paid, Sweeney said.

Last month, Goff and councillors approved a $63m bailout for Eden Park and last year compensated one of the world's largest recycling companies, Visy, to the tune of $29m after China stopped buying foreign waste.

The Auckland City Rail Link has caused huge disruption to businesses along Albert St. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Auckland City Rail Link has caused huge disruption to businesses along Albert St. Photo / Dean Purcell

Goff would not say why big businesses like Eden Park and Visy get bailed out, but small businesses get nothing.

On the issue of compensation, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it was an operational matter and inappropriate to comment.

The CRL is a joint project between the council and the Government, who 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 3.5km route to Mt Eden.

Krwoon Keum, the Korean owner of Sumo Sushi on Albert St, said the lack of support for businesses run by Indian, Arab, Korean and Chinese people felt like discrimination.

Sushi shop owner Krwoon Keum believes immigrants are facing discrimination. Photo / Dean Purcell
Sushi shop owner Krwoon Keum believes immigrants are facing discrimination. Photo / Dean Purcell

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.

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"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.

Speaking through her assistant, the shop owner said the stress led her to see a doctor and psychiatrist and was put on medication for depression. She also had a stomach operation last year.

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.

Turnover has reduced by more than half and getting worse, said Yu, who is weak after chemotherapy and only staying open in case a buyer turns up - "if I close, it is worth nothing".

"I think the council and City Rail Link should do the right thing and we should get compensation for the rent and loss of business, but it's turned out that nobody cares about us," Yu said.

Restaurant owner Kingna Yu is a victim of the Auckland City Rail Link that has caused huge disruption to businesses along Albert St. Photo / Dean Purcell
Restaurant owner Kingna Yu is a victim of the Auckland City Rail Link that has caused huge disruption to businesses along Albert St. Photo / Dean Purcell

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.

Like other business owners, Kaushal is using money from another job managing hotels to pay staff wages at the Shakespeare where the financial outlook is "very grave".

On St Patrick's Day on 2017, takings at the Shakespeare were $26,000, last year they dropped to $10,000 and this year $5600.

Kaushal estimates his business has lost $1.5m from the CRL works. In the first three months of 2016, the budget shortfall is $323,000.

How is it fair, Kaushal said in a letter to Goff this week, that Aucklanders and the entire nation will enjoy the economic benefits of the CRL but a few Albert St business will pay a heavy price.

Shakespeare Tavern operator Sunny Kaushal is seeking compensation for the loss of business. Photo / Dean Purcell
Shakespeare Tavern operator Sunny Kaushal is seeking compensation for the loss of business. Photo / Dean Purcell

Goff has flatly ruled out compensation, saying it is not in line with current or past practice, and dismissed a request from Kaushal for a rates holiday and back paying rates to business affected by the works.

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.

"We are not standing still, however, and hear the concern of businesses. CRLL and its contractors will meet with businesses and work with them on new initiatives to manage project impacts," he said.

Kaushal said businesses had not seen Sweeney or Goff, a single councillor or a single MP, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who represented Auckland Central earlier in her career.

"She should come and show some love to her old constituency," he said.