Auckland Central store owner frustrated by City Rail Link delays affecting business

An Auckland Central store owner says delays to the construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) are hurting local businesses, but is hopeful the project will one day be beneficial for the city.

On Thursday, the Government and Auckland Council announced it had brought forward work to establish a hardship fund for businesses on Auckland's Albert St affected by delays to the construction of the CRL, which began in 2016.

Details of the fund are slim, but only certain businesses that meet a yet to be finalised eligibility criteria will have the opportunity to receive payments.

"Hardship grants will only be paid to businesses negatively affected by the delay in construction and the businesses will need to open their books to demonstrate they were commercially viable before the works started," Transport Minister Phil Twyford said in a statement.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said for the small business owners and their families "this will be an enormous relief".

But while Shobhana Ranchhodji, owner of Albert St's Roma Blooms Florist, says the fund would be helpful for some, she's frustrated the fund won't compensate for any inconvenience caused by the overall construction. 

Construction is yet to reach her end of Albert St, but she says she knows business owners already affected who are hurting with fewer customers coming through their doors. 

"We have seen business change. We have seen what the construction is going to do to us. People are going to be moving differently. The pedestrian does not walk normally through the congestion. It is going to make people change the way they think of coming down Albert St," Ranchhodji told The AM Show.

"Each and every business has decreased in what should be coming into our businesses for where we are situated in the CBD."

She said the financial impact of people avoiding Albert St was devastating and that store owners have had to make big lifestyle changes. 

"We look for funding in some many different ways. We are asking our family, our friends.

"There have been so much changes in our lifestyle, with our children, with our family, because of what is happening to our businesses and the funds are coming from other ways, not people coming through into our shops to help our rents get paid, help us pay our staff."

Ranchhodji believes there should be a unique package set up for each affected business, acknowledging that some businesses may have been purchased after construction was announced and therefore possibly at a lower price.

The fund's budget will come from existing project costs, and CRL Ltd's chief executive, Dr Sean Sweeny says extensive work is being done to finalise how it will work on top of already available financial initiatives. 

"Our scope includes the size of the fund, how and who will manage the fund, and who will qualify for support," he said.

"Our actions are directed at small businesses able to prove financial hardship caused by project delays.  Long term, CRL will increase business opportunities along its alignment and the fund will not compensate for any inconvenience caused by construction."

Ranchhodji says when construction is all over and done with, the CRL will be "wonderful" for the city.

Local MP Nikki Kaye says business owners' issues have never been with minor roadworks, but the ongoing delay. She hopes authorities learn from the CRL.

"It is really important that local and central government learn lessons from this project. In the long-term it is good that work is being done to develop wider policy to ensure we can minimise disruption where possible to businesses for major infrastructure projects."