Business owners affected by the ongoing delays to Auckland's City Rail Link (CRL) say they were shocked at what they heard in Thursday's meeting.
Details of a hardship fund were announced just before Christmas, after months of small businesses affected by the closure of lower Albert St calling out for more clarity.
But Shakespeare Tavern owner Sunny Kaushal, spokesman for the lower Albert St businesses, said everyone at the meeting was shocked to hear they'd only receive money if there was a price difference between the rent paid by the businesses and the market rent price.
"We were told the City Rail Link would have a valuer come to the business and check the actual rent the business is paying on the lease, say $10,000 a month, for example.
"Then the valuer will also check the market rent for the premises, so say they found it was $9500."
CRL would then "look into" paying the difference between the prices, Kaushal said they were told.
No money would be paid out of the hardship fund if there was no difference between the two prices.
"If the market rent and the actual rent is the same, then you do not get anything, despite all the disruptions, the losses, the challenges that the businesses have suffered from the construction over the last two-and-a-half-years."
Dr Sean Sweeney, City Rail Link Ltd's chief executive, said that the project made it clear that the hardship fund is not a compensation package to cover for neither disruption, nor for loss of business due to CRL construction work.
"The City Rail Link project has no mandate to provide compensation," he said.
"Businesses seeking compensation can do so under the Public Works Act."
Kaushal said he asked the CRL representative if they were joking.
"We were all shocked," he said.
"One woman was in tears."
Sweeney said that fund applications were being assessed by a qualified property valuer, working independently of CRL Ltd to determine how much rent should be paid because of the construction delay.
"CRL Ltd assures small businesses it will honour any decision made by the valuer, including the level of rent assistance to be paid."
• Struggling businesses affected by ongoing City Rail Link to receive assistance
• Delayed City Rail Link taking enormous toll on businesses impacted by its construction
• 'They're playing God with our businesses': Frustration over CRL hardship fund
• Milestone for Auckland's $4.4 billion City Rail Link is no silver lining for affected businesses
Those at the meeting also had a different date that the payments would be backdated from than the CRL representative they met with.
The business owners believed the money was to be backdated from the original completion date of the Albert St construction, November 29, 2018.
But they were told that the payment would be backdated from last year.
"Any payout will be backdated to 1 September 2019," Sweeney said.
"CRL's last annual report indicated that this was the original planned date for the completion of project work in the lower end of Albert St."
Kaushal said Thursday's meeting was the latest upset in the ongoing saga and those at the meeting no longer trust CRL will help them.
"These businesses have been suffering, quite seriously, for a long time because of a project outside of their control," he said.
"They made a mockery of the time and effort made by these people to stay in business."
Those at the meeting were told they could take legal advice to seek compensation, but Kaushal said he said no one would be able to afford it.
"We don't understand when we are already struggling financially, how we could pay for a lawyer, when we are not able to pay for our rent or staff wages."
He said those at the meeting gave back the fund application forms and didn't want to apply.
"CRL Ltd acknowledged that the Business Hardship Programme will not satisfy everyone," Sweeney said.
He said around half of those who attended the drop-in session sought specific advice about the application process and indicated that they would be applying for rent assistance.
Prior to Thursday's meeting, four businesses had made formal applications for rent assistance.
Kaushal said the businesses wanted to discuss their dire situation in a meeting with Transport Minister Phil Twyford, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, and CRL management.
"They should show the human decency to come forward and help these businesses, not to play with them."
CRL work is now due to be completed at the end of 2020.