A tearful Antony Ariano is closing his Da Vinci’s Italian Restaurant in central Auckland tonight – the latest victim of construction works on the $4.4 billion City Rail Link.

“Small businesses have done nothing to be treated like this,” said Ariano, shortly before taking the last orders at the Albert St restaurant he opened 10 years earlier.

The mental and financial stress for business owners in the path of the CRL has forced the closure of many businesses, including the well-known Mai Thai restaurant not far from Da Vinci’s, and left others on the brink.

Ariano said the final nail for him was the closure of the Victoria St and Albert St intersection for two years, leaving his business boxed in by metal fences, hoardings and the daily noise, dust and smells from the construction work.

“When that happened I realised, ‘that’s it, I’m finished’,” he said.

The closure of the Victoria St intersection and previous works along Albert St have left Ariano a broken man. His doctor has prescribed him sleeping tablets and medication for depression, and he has been diagnosed with diabetes.

“It’s a bad dream. I feel like crying,” said Ariano, who woke up at 3am on Saturday doing just that. Crying. He did not want to come to work tonight, but mustered up the energy to oversee the last “few bookings”.

Ariano said small businesses are the victims of politicians passing the buck and turning a blind eye over compensation for disruption.

“Why are they treating us like this?” he asked.

Chloe Swarbrick, the MP for Auckland Central, says the Government is playing a game of pass the parcel with struggling business owners.

She released parliamentary questions to Transport Minister Michael Wood and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash, showing the ministers are still some way off addressing the concerns of business and property owners.

Nash has not requested any advice about the impact of the CRL on businesses and Wood has had just two briefings from officials. The issue has not reached the Cabinet.

Swarbrick said the issue of helping small businesses is several years down the track and cannot keep being kicked down the road.

“At the very least, civil leaders have a role in fronting up to the very real stress,” she said.

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