Not today, not tomorrow and not even next week. Not next month or even next year.
In fact the Katikati bypass, which townsfolk believed could be started as early as this year, has been mothballed for at least a decade.
The NZTA has told The Weekend Sun that a bypass is not considered an investment priority for the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme, and construction, if required, will begin after 2028.
The agency will retain the land designated for the bypass, “which protects the route for future use”.
Their timeframe for the bypass has caught Coromandel National MP Scott Simpson unawares.
“It’s outrageous!” he says. “Katikati has good cause to feel really hurt by this news.” The MP says the decision will almost certainly have come as a result of a political direction from the new government.
Scott says he worked long and hard with the local community to get a firm commitment from the last National government that a bypass would be built, and built quickly. “For the new government to renege on that is shameful and speaks volumes about where they see their priorities.”
And in his opinion, those “pet priorities” are in Auckland. “The trams along Dominion Road and the train set from the CBD to Auckland airport - they have put those priorities ahead of Western Bay of Plenty road users.”
The NZTA statement to The Weekend Sun was prompted by talk of ‘civil disobedience’ in Katikati, and a possible protest blocking traffic on SH2 at peak holiday time after it was learned the bypass was on hold.
“If you spend decades trying to be heard, and you don’t ever appear to be heard, then you just may need to protest,” warned Jenny Hobbs, chair of the Katikati Community Board. And she questioned whether the NZTA board even got to consider the business case for the bypass.
The agency says the SH2 programme business case, including the Katikati Bypass, was considered as part of its re-evaluation process. As a result, the board “endorsed the direction to focus on prioritising safety”. For Katikati, that means it’ll pursue options other than the bypass to “improve livability and manage traffic through the township”.
“Balancing local traffic with state highway through-put remains the focus for Katikati,’ says the statement. “NZTA will work with partners and the community to develop an operational plan and undertake smaller improvements to manage seasonal peaks.”
Scott Simpson, however, is disbelieving. “Frankly, that’s an insult to Katikati and the Western Bay of Plenty,” he says. “These people (NZTA) are famous for driving desks and having shiny bottoms on their suit trousers – they have spent no time in the district.”
He invited NZTA and the Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, to stand on the footpath down the main street of Katikati for ten or fifteen minutes during the summer peak to get a sense of the real physical problem that exists.
“And also to have the spine to come and get a sense of the utter frustration of local citizens to their delaying tactics.”