A regional council plan to drop badly needed improvements to SH2 to near the bottom of its wish list has enraged Western Bay of Plenty district councillors, including mayor Garry Webber.
“It’s got the highest death and accident rate of any state highway in New Zealand,” says Garry.
“But I suppose the thing that is really causing incredible angst in our community is the most recent regional land transport committee list of priorities which goes forward to central government."
On the list the improvements to SH2 in the Western Bay of Plenty have dropped to 11.
“You most probably don’t need to be too clever to work out that that has really enraged myself and my council in particular, and we will be putting a very blunt and very focussed and evidence based submission to the regional council to say ‘how on earth could you get this so wrong?’
“Because the fundamental things you are supposed to look are evidence based, and at Western Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City, through SmartGrowth, we pride ourselves on being evidence based.
“It’s vehicles per day on each road and the number of deaths and serious crashes, and if you look at all the roads that are higher than number 11 on that regional land transport plan, they don’t have the volumes.”
The issue has been growing for 26 years, since Omokoroa was identified in the 1991 SmartGrowth settlement pattern review as a sub-regional growth hub.
“We have been saying ‘yes that’s fine’, but it needs to have the roading sorted out at the same time. You can’t put more cars on the road without improving the roading network.
“More latterly when the past government looking for the special housing accords to try and get land diverted from different zones to residential, Western Bay stepped in very quickly to Nick Smith and said ‘we’ll do the Omokoroa Special Housing Accord, we will fast forward that – but conditional upon that is you do your bit about upgrading the road between Katikati and Tauranga, but in particular work on the interchange that has always been proposed for Omokoroa’, since 1995 that I’m aware of.”
He’s also concerned the current draft transport plan in its current form will fail when it goes up against the other regional transport plans bidding for a share of government funding.
“If we want government to take notice our plan has to be incredibly compelling, evidence based and factually correct,” says Garry. “It shouldn’t be a political document. This is a technical document based on vehicles per day and death rates.”
Regional Land Transport Committee chairman Stuart Crosby says the draft list was put together by the roading managers of all the councils in the Bay of Plenty.
The priorities were questioned when it came before the committee says Stuart, and he has no doubt that SH2 will be re-prioritised.
“Now in saying that, it won’t necessarily make the projects happen quicker,” says Stuart. The fundamental problem is the investment programme has been steered towards SH1 and SH29, - the Kaimai Road at the expense of State Highway 2.”
That was driven through the previous government’s direction through the Government Policy Statement on Transport.
“Their priority was in economic development making sure the routes were secure for goods to go between here and Auckland,” says Stuart.
“My personal view is because of what I see is they had a focus on freight and a lesser focus on safety. I believe the new Government is going to change that and have stronger focus on safety.
“So this will hopefully allow NZTA to actually do the work to bring these projects forward, because they have been languishing particularly the Omokoroa Road/SH2 intersection, Has been very slow progress.”
The new Government Policy Statement on Transport is expected to be released by the end of this month, says Stuart.
“That in turn will change our priority list and in turn give NZTA the mandate to put those safety works higher up on their work programme.”
Garry Webber says the district council is trying to bring Transport Minister Phil Twyford to the Western Bay of Plenty to see the traffic for himself.
Last Friday they took local MPs Jan Tinetti and Angie Warren-Clark on a bus tour of the traffic hazards inspecting every intersection from Barkes Corner to Katikati.
“So they are being fully briefed and they took time out, which was very encouraging,” says Garry.