Council slammed over CRL payouts as they prepare for next stage

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Aug 2019, 1:27PM
The City Rail Link is preparing to build the Aotea Station. (Photo / Supplied)

Council slammed over CRL payouts as they prepare for next stage

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Aug 2019, 1:27PM

An Auckland business leader has hit out at the compensation offered to businesses affected by the City Rail Link.

It comes as the CRL prepares to launch the next stage, which will see Auckland Council staff will experience disruption first hand when the next stage of the $4.4 billion City Rail Link is built outside their central city headquarters over several years.

Next month, early works start on the new Aotea Station between Victoria and Wellesley Sts on Albert St where the council building is located.

The station is in the next block along Albert St where disruption and delays from the construction of twin underground tunnels has left several small businesses on the brink of financial ruin and facing health issues.

Council's head of corporate property Rod Aitken said staff can already work flexibly and council has workspaces available for staff who may be impacted.

He said a canopy on the Albert St building was removed earlier in the year and council will continue to work closely with the CRL Alliance to ensure staff are regularly updated as works progresses.

City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL) chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney said the company managing the project and the Link Alliance contractors will do all they can to minimise disruption but a project as big and complex as the CRL will "unavoidably impact on life in the city centre for some time".

How it will affect businesses is not yet known. A CRL spokesman says since taking over managing the project in July 2017, it's spent $72,000 on business disruption up to June this year.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says the amount is grossly inadequate.

He told Mike Hosking the council has its head in the sand over the issue.

"This council has for a long time said its a business we can ignore them, but these poor guys down Albert Street have suffered, and it has got progressively worse."

The Aotea Station is not expected to be finished until 2023 and Albert St not reinstated until the entire 3.4km project between Britomart and Mt Eden is completed in 2024.

Aotea Station will be completed in three stages. Early works, including the relocation of utilities, start next month. The main works to extend the tunnels to Mayoral Drive are due to start in the first three months of next year. The third stage will be landscaping and public improvements.

A pit 15m deep will be excavated for the Aotea station. The construction method from Mayoral Drive to just north of the Victoria St intersection on Albert St will be top-down. Walls and a roof will be built and construction will carry on underneath.

This will allow parts of the road to be opened earlier, and will help keep noise and dust down. It is different from the work between Customs St and up Albert St to Wyndham St where the site remained open after excavation.

"Work is quickly ramping up for a project that is going to give an international city like Auckland the modern rail network it needs, but there is no easy way to deliver a job like this in the middle of a busy CBD," Sweeney said.

The next stage of the project is about to get underway while businesses continue to battle with politicians over financial assistance for prolonged delays outside their control.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he is still considering a proposal by Mayor Phil Goff for a hardship fund and will respond in due course.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said news that CRLL had spent $72,000 to help businesses battling to make a living behind its trenches "is a shameful response".

A spokesman for CRLL said since it had taken over managing the project from Auckland Transport in July 2017, $72,225 had been spent on business disruption support until June this year.

More has been spent since then but an accurate amount is not known yet. More money had been spent by Auckland Transport and Auckland Council had implemented a number of initiatives, the spokesman said.

CRLL said to keep people and workers safe on the new works along Albert St, vehicle access will be restricted but footpaths will remain open.

There will be times when the Victoria St and Wellesley St intersections will be closed to traffic, but they will not be closed at the same time to keep traffic moving, particularly buses.

A series of meetings with local people and community groups got underway today. They include lunchtime open days at Griffith Gardens on the corner of Wellesley St and Mayoral Drive. The open days run each day from 11.30am to 1.30pm until Thursday this week.

Sweeney said there is a commitment to continue to share more exact timetables for the delivery of the various stages of work to keep people informed and to help them plan.

"I acknowledge there will be some who will be nervous about what lies ahead. It will take time to complete this stage of a City Rail Link that will change Auckland forever," he said.




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