Transport minister Michael Wood and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff have announced a hardship fund for small businesses affected by the ongoing City Rail Link construction.
Struggling businesses have been crying out for compensation since 2019, and many have closed due to the construction.
Wood said the details of the eligibility criteria are still being finalised. However, advance payments will be made for businesses likely to be eligible based on a high-level independent assessment and backdated to February.
Whilst the fund will cost rate and taxpayers $12m, Goff argued the targeted hardship fund is essential in the interest of fairness to small businesses whose livelihoods are threatened by the disruption.
Over the next two years, funding of up to $12m will be provided from the Government and Auckland Council, with a review late next year for the following two years. Payments will be backdated to 1 February 2021. City Rail Link Limited will finalise eligibility soon. Businesses will need to provide evidence to meet the criteria.
Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck, who has been advocating on behalf of the businesses, said it was great that a hardship fund will be established to help businesses this large-scale and long-term project has massively impacted.
Beck said the criteria would be essential, and it is excellent payments will be made whilst details are being confirmed Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick is also pleased for the small businesses she has worked closely with this past year.
In hindsight, Wood was disappointed hardship support was not established when the project began, but future projects will have support schemes created in advance.
Businesses we contacted on Karangahape Rd, where a large part of the construction is taking place were reluctant to comment without knowing more information, one pub owner said, "I definitely will be applying but we’ve no idea yet how much it is, who it covers and how to apply."
The news does come as a relief, however, after what has been an incredibly difficult time with both the CRL and COVID restrictions causing havoc to businesses in the surrounding area. The same pub owner commented, "It will be too late for a lot of people, but, if it’s enough and we don’t have to go through months of red tape, it may just save us from going under."