There is a view that we just need to get on and make the changes our city needs. I get that. There are too many projects that have gone nowhere because people can't agree. But what cost is too high?
Judging by the people who have contacted me over the past year, I think we have gone beyond a threshold that makes sense to people. This article focuses on the human cost of change.
There are two things that I believe are fundamental for success with a public project.
Firstly, people need to feel they have been heard and secondly, they need to respect the way a decision is made and the outcome needs to make sense. Not everyone will like every decision, but it must pass the test of what is fair and reasonable. Decisions that appear pre-determined do not go down well.
Two city centre issues have resonated across the wider city this year – partly because these principles have been breached and partly because they have highlighted other examples in local communities that have breached them too.
A legal challenge was needed in Queen St to get Auckland Council to agree to take the emergency Covid-19 works out, which many people could see from day one were unappealing, unsafe and operationally flawed. Council lost the support it previously had for a well-considered trial when these works went in with no discussion and no desire to listen to feedback at a time when people were trying to get back on their feet in a global pandemic.
In Sydney, there is another legal case brewing - 110 businesses and landlords are seeking $400 million in compensation from Transport New South Wales over what they say is the government's poor planning and delays with their light rail project.
It's not inconceivable that legal action is taken to get justice for the businesses impacted by City Rail Link construction, although they are not in a position to fund it personally.
Many of them are on their knees as they face further isolation and disruption with the closure of the Albert/Victoria Street intersection this week. Many others are expressing dismay for how those impacted are being treated and legal action may end up the only option for redress.
Is this the city we want? One that rides roughshod over hardworking people in a callous and autocratic way? The damage is already massive and legal action would take a long time to secure any money for them. The cost for the taxpayer would also be higher than if the project sponsors, the Government and Auckland Council act now.
It's once again a circular argument, much like in 2019 when this issue was last debated publicly. In the interim, Heart of the City took this issue to Parliament and received support from a cross-party Select Committee in March 2020, with clear recommendations made to the Government.
Nothing much has happened since and the current commentary goes something like this.
City Rail Link says it can't do anything without the sponsors' support. Auckland Council is deferring to the Government, which says the matter sits with the Minister of Transport. He is sympathetic and says his officials are working on options for financial relief.
However, there is no word on when that will be ready and he is not available to meet the businesses to understand the situation on the ground or listen to input from Heart of the City to help inform the officials' work.
Meanwhile, Rome burns in and around Albert St.
While the Government tells us to "be kind", who is responsible for the health and welfare of these people?
Employers are in no doubt about their responsibilities for workplace health and safety and there is no shortage of rebuke if a mistake is made. As it turns out, the Minister of Transport is also the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety and I have put this question to him.
I wonder how he would feel if his parents' life savings were drained by a nine-year public project right on their doorstep? What if his young nephew had to watch the demise of his parent's marriage, disseminated by the stress? What if he had to sell his own home to try and survive?
The minister has expressed concern about not having money to provide financial relief as it wasn't budgeted.
However, two years ago, $500 million was found in a very short timeframe to cover additional costs of the project, with no budget set aside.
This is a question of reassessing the priority and moral obligation to support innocent people who have been caught in a nightmare, completely outside their control, from a large-scale, long-term public project. Action is needed quickly, before it's too late.
I applaud the people who have stood up when things are wrong and those who have been brave enough to ask for help. If we can sort fundamental principles like respect for all people, listening to different views, and well-considered debate with decisions that people understand, I believe we will be a lot better placed to make important decisions for the future of our city – and get them implemented.
• Viv Beck is the chief executive at Heart of the City.