Andrew Dickens: No evidence of CRL creating a retail wasteland

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Dec 2019, 3:28PM
Construction has been ongoing at the City Rail Link for several years. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Andrew Dickens: No evidence of CRL creating a retail wasteland

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Dec 2019, 3:28PM

On behalf of the politicians and businesses involved in the construction of the Auckland City Rail Link, I would like to apologise to the taxpayers of New Zealand for their appalling behaviour over the past three years and the continued waste of your taxpayer dollars.

Here’s why.

Yesterday the company building the rail tunnels announced a hardship fund for small businesses with less than 20 employees affected by the construction work.  It will help with their rent up to 75 grand each. They have to have been in the premises before work started in 2016.  It covers Albert Street from Customs Street to Victoria Street.

So in the public interest I thought I’d take a walk along the street to day as I do quite often just to see who has been affected behind the fences.

On the East side you have a café and medical centre in the Quay West apartment building that seem to be doing fine.  Then you have the Stamford Hotel and residences.  Affected but they have not complained. 

Then there’s a Trade Centre geared to the tourists in the hotel.  Then there a big hole in the ground where the Herald used to be.  It's now a construction site full of workers.  Then there’s a Hollywood Bakery and a coffee hole in the wall and apartment buildings and office.

To the West side you have Ronnies Café which was heaving with construction workers.  A tourist gift store.  A food hall with a convenience store, a night club and then a vacant building that is being demolished.  That’s followed by the 30 storey ANZ tower with no retail, a 30 storey apartment block, a series of buildings that have been vacant or carparks for years, a Sushi Shop.  

And then, of course, The Shakespeare Pub, owned by Sonny Kaushal, the chief spokesperson for the disaffected businesses.

After that we’ve got a health store and then the massive District Court.  No retail there.

So four cafes and a sushi shop that seem to be heaving with construction worker business.  A couple of gift centres patronised by tourist companies.  A couple of convenience stores also frequented by construction workers.  A hotel. Some massive office towers and apartment towers filled with workers and residents  who need food and convenience items. 

And then, of course, The Shakespeare Pub, owned by Sonny Kaushal, the chief spokesperson for the disaffected businesses.

I saw no evidence of a retail wasteland.

Let me tell you about Sonny Kaushal who reckons his business has lost $1.5 million since the work began in 2016.  Can I remind you that Sonny took over the Shakespeare in 2017.  One year after the work started.  So he should have been fully aware of the work and its impact.  You’d think.  Or he took it over without due diligence.

By the way, across the road from the pub used to be the Herald building.  That was abandoned in 2016 as the company moved into our present building.  All those journos and sales reps moving are where your business has gone Sonny. Right now a 39 storey office block for 3000 workers and a hotel for 1000 guests is going up 50 metres from Sonny’s front door.  The man is sitting on a goldmine and still he moans.

So what am I going to apologise for?  Firstly, the politicians who didn’t put disruption relief in the CRL contract in the first place. That’d be Sir John Key, Bill English, Stephen Joyce and Len Brown. And then Phil Twyford for not sorting this out quicker.  He missed a golden chance to be a hero and not a zero.

 And I like to apologise for all the sob stories written about whingers who should have known what they were getting into.

Sean Sweeney this morning seemed sad and deflated.  I don’t blame him.  He is having to deal with people who seem to have only a glancing familiarity with how things work and how to get things done.