The Prime Minister has been invited to meet the families of business owners facing financial ruin from years of disruption along the route of Auckland's $4.4 billion City Rail Link.
Jacinda Ardern has been criticised for her response to constituents in the Auckland Central electorate where she was based as a list MP for several years, and accused of making misleading statements about help for 16 businesses.
Ardern and Transport Minister Phil Twyford have rejected calls for financial assistance, including a suggestion from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff for a hardship package and pleas for immediate help from the central city business group Heart of the City.
A letter to Ardern from the "Dying Businesses of Albert St" calls on Ardern to meet the businesses and their families.
"You are welcome here any time," said the letter, which is signed by each of the affected business owners.
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The letter has been organised by Sunny Kaushal, who runs the historic Shakespeare Tavern in Albert St.
"You are now well aware of the hardship, misery and loss being suffered by small business along Albert St as a consequence of the sustained, lengthy and extraordinary City Rail Link works," said the letter, dated yesterday.
The businesses have a particular beef with Ardern over comments she made this month on Newstalk ZB that City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL), the company overseeing the mammoth underground rail project, has been negotiating with some of the businesses.
"Your comments suggest that CRLL is taking a proactive role to negotiate with the suffering businesses.
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"However, the simple fact is that CRLL has not approached a single one of us. No-one has engaged with us even though we have been trying to communicate with CRLL, Auckland Council and the Government since June," the letter said.
The Herald is seeking comment from the Prime Minister.
In the past few weeks, a parliamentary petition has been launched calling for help, businesses have started sending bouquets of flowers with messages to Ardern and other ministers, and stood in solidarity with placards at a protest outside the Shakespeare Tavern. Last Sunday, one of the affected businesses had a tile thrown through the glass window of his Sushi shop.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck has also written an article in the Herald, saying there are key principles at stake - fairness, transparency, action and the value of small business.
"These are hardworking people who are just looking for a fair go," she said.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford today indicated there will be no immediate financial assistance for Albert St businesses from the Government.
He said policy work is under way to consider how and whether the Government compensates businesses for disruption caused by transport infrastructure projects.
"As any financial assistance would be unprecedented and could have significant costs for the taxpayer, this work cannot be done quickly and is likely to take several more months," he said.
Twyford said until that process is complete, CRLL is working directly with Albert St businesses to find "practical ways to support them".
CRLL has offered practical assistance to businesses, but said it does not have any money in its $4.4 billion budget to help struggling businesses.
Meanwhile, CRLL starts the demolition of 30 buildings at the Mt Eden end of the project on Monday to prepare a "base camp" for a tunnel boring machine and other machinery.
The CRL runs 3.4km from Britomart to the Mt Eden station with new stations at Albert St in the city and Karangahape Rd.
The boring machine will dig two underground tunnels for the trains from the Mt Eden. The project is due to be completed in late 2024.