4 Jul 2012

Businesses face rail link disruption

9:21 am on 4 July 2012

Many Auckland businesses say they are willing to put up with the inevitable disruption caused by a planned downtown rail tunnel because it will benefit the city in the long term.

The council's transport agency has confirmed the route for the $2.4 billion project, which will run from the Britomart terminus, up Albert and Pitt Streets in the central city and through to the suburb of Mt Eden.

The purchase of central city properties along the route could begin as early as this year.

Auckland Transport says it will have to buy up to 210 properties and underground rights are needed for a further 70 properties.

Karangahape Road is the chosen site for one of three new underground stations to be built.

Precinct manager for the Karangahape Road business district, Barbara Holloway, says people are prepared to accommodate the rail link.

She says the community sees the project as a benefit for Auckland irrespective of how it pans out for themselves.

The biggest single property affected is the Westfield Downtown Shopping Centre, which will have to be demolished.

The company's New Zealand director, Justin Lynch, says Westfield is not in a position to comment, but did say the shopping centre's future will be the subject of ongoing discussions.

Retailer Alvaro Munoz, manager of Hardy's Pharmacy in the Westfield centre, says his family has owned the shop for seven years and he's concerned about its future.

"We've been expected some kind of development, like a redevelopment, we were told for many years. Now it turns out that that might not be happening, so we are a bit concerned."

Also potentially in the path of the rail line is the Mt Eden headquarters for TV3 and a handful of apartment buildings in the Newton area.

'Prudent to secure route'

Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse says the Government has been clear that Auckland Council needs to protect the route for the rail loop.

The council has committed $230 million to buying properties along the route of its proposed rail tunnel despite funding for the project not yet being secured.

Ms Hulse told Morning Report that while the Government has not committed the requested 50% of funding, it also has not refused the request.

She says it is prudent to secure the route now, and as far as the council is concerned the project is all go.

Planning and property acquisition is expected to take up to three years.