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Businesses suffer as sinkhole costs blow out

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 14/11/2017

© Business Images/Rex Shutterstock/Rex Features/Rex Images The cost of fixing a massive sinkhole in the Auckland suburb of New Lynn has more than tripled to $15 million and repairs may take longer than expected, Auckland Council says.

Heavy rainfall washed away the footpath and damaged the main road through the town centre on 12 March.

Eight months on, owners of some of the businesses that survived the flooding said they were struggling to survive, with ongoing roadworks - due to be completed by the end of February - putting off customers.

Part of the Kia Ora Superette was flooded in March and owner Navinesh Singh said sales were down 75 percent.

"People are basically avoiding this side of the footpath" - Kia Ora Superetee owner (4 min 13 sec)

"Firstly, there's no foot traffic so we don't get people coming in. The footpath is closed down the road so people are avoiding this side of the footpath where my shop is."

Next door, Western Tattoo artist Geoff Thomas said it had been a "very slow winter" with customers were put off from visiting.

"We were used to having three to four different groups of people a day ... but with all the construction going on we're lucky to get three or four people a week."

He said he had no word from the council about when things might return to normal.

Whau Local Board chair Tracy Mulholland said she was surprised to hear their complaints as she'd personally been in touch with every affected businesses.

"They're just upset and I can understand that ... I'll go and see them again next week and give them a verbal update."

A few doors up from Western Tattoo is Nappies for Less, but not for long: it's closing its doors at the end next week. A worker there said the flooding, the roadworks and a now a rent increase were the final straws.

Further along, Auckland Lock Services suffered knee-deep flooding in March and only reopened its doors for the first time yesterday.

Its manager Deb Clarke said it had been hard being out of business for so long but she was hopeful the roadworks would not affect them too badly as they had parking behind their ship.

The council's communication about the repairs had also been "excellent", she said.

Both Mr Singh and Mr Thomas said they had been told by construction workers on the project that it would be finished by the end of the year.

However, Auckland Council said a recent decision to upgrade footpaths and install a new park and high-tech drains to improve water quality at the same time as fixing the culvert meant it might take longer than the end-of-February completion date originally planned for.

Auckland Council's healthy waters operations principal Craig Mountjoy, who was overseeing the repairs, said that had pushed out the original $3.7 million price tag to just under $15m, he said.

Some of that cost would be picked up by Auckland Transport.

The council had been in regular contact with about 1000 people about its progress, Mr Mountjoy said.

The risk of flooding in the same area again would be "very low" once repairs were complete, he said.

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