Auckland’s Wynyard bridge closure: ‘These are peoples’ livelihoods at risk’

The closure of the Wynyard crossing bridge in downtown Auckland is costing jobs, with businesses in the area reporting a drop in turnover so large they do not have the funds to pay staff.

The bridge – which opens and closes for boats to pass and pedestrians to cross – has been stuck in the up position and closed to the public since January, and it is unclear when it will reopen.

Ele Panuku, the council agency in charge of the repairs, says it could be out of action for months and deputy mayor Desley Simpson says it is a reputational issue having such a highly visible piece of failed infrastructure.

But for businesses stuck on the far side of the bridge, the damage is more than reputational.

The Conservatory bar and restaurant owner Tricky Hartley said it had a “devastating” impact on business.

“Not just for me, but for all the businesses in the area, all the hospitality venues and all the other businesses. Seven thousand people cross that bridge daily – 9000 in a weekend – and suddenly it’s shut, so people don’t have access to the area.”

It had resulted in a 70 percent drop in turnover on the same time last year, Hartley said.

“Which is just unbelievable, and has its knock-on effects which means that now five of the business done there, including ourselves, are unfortunately going through a redundancy process with staff.”

He said The Conservatory management had been forced to let up to 50 percent of its team go, “that’s how devastating this has been for us”.

He said other businesses were cutting staff by similar amounts.

“There simply isn’t the turnover to be able to pay the staff. It’s appalling, these are peoples’ livelihoods at risk now.”

He said the businesses had survived cyclones, last year’s flooding in Auckland and Covid-19.

“And then we started to get back on our feet this past year and suddenly, November last year the bridge problems started coming to a head, and that lasted four months and then without warning they just closed it and told us it could be until December this year to get it working.”

He said Eke Panuku’s handling of the problem had been “appalling from the get-go”.

“There’s been no real project management on it, there’s been a sincere lack of consideration for any of the businesses in the area.

“The Wynyard Quarter is a vibrant area, it’s a huge asset to Auckland, to our tourism industry, to our local and international tourists and the Auckland ratepayer. And when they can’t get over there, we see a huge downturn in turnover.”

Eke Panuku head David Rankin was not available for an interview, but in a statement the council-owned organisation said it had informed stakeholders today it was working on tightening the timeframe for maintenance work on the bridge so that it can be completed as quickly as possible

It said it would also conduct a trial this month to test if a temporary small ferry service would be viable in the meantime

A detailed report into other potential alternatives, such as a temporary bridge, is also expected tomorrow.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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