Heart of the City calls for independent review of CRL Hardship Fund criteria as impacted businesses short-changed
Businesses impacted by City Rail Link construction have been left disillusioned as a Hardship Fund set up to support them fails to deliver.
On the eve of Christmas, the Minister of Transport has advised that there will be no further discussion on outstanding issues relating to the Hardship Fund that was announced in early September. No rationale has been given as to why the changes requested by businesses have been rejected, nor any evidence provided that they have been given due consideration.
Viv Beck, Chief Executive, Heart of the City says that “We believe these requests - such as backdating payments to the beginning of the C3 contract – are fair given the devastation this project is having on people’s lives. We want to see an independent assessment of the decisions made. We were led to believe that there would be an opportunity for input into the development of the criteria but this has not eventuated as we or the businesses expected.”
Shobhana Ranchhodji owner of Roma Blooms, a business that has been severely impacted by the CRL works since they began in 2016 says that “the Hardship Fund will not cover the losses we have incurred but we wanted the criteria to be fair and transparent. We’ve asked for the payments to be backdated to the start of the contract, yet they won’t budge on an arbitrary date of February 2021 and they won’t tell us why. These decisions go round and round in circles over and over again … it’s unbearable and this is ruining our lives.”
Given the response to date, Heart of the City has requested an independent review of the Hardship Fund criteria, which will include decisions that CRL is delegated to make around eligibility for payments.
Beck says that “We have yet to hear the outcome of the Auditor-General’s report on this project and it’s very important that issues relating to City Rail Link are dealt with before announcements about Light Rail are made and more businesses face the potential for large-scale, long-term construction impacts. People no doubt think the Hardship Fund is in place and it’s all sorted. That is not the case and this letter has come just as we hear that the project will likely incur many months of delays due to COVID-19. Businesses already facing the impact of years of construction on their doorstep are horrified at the prospect.”