Government ignoring fears for safety
The Government is choosing to ignore the real fears locals have for their safety when travelling on State Highway 2 from Tauranga to Katikati by not upgrading the route to four lanes, said local MPs Scott Simpson and Todd Muller.
The MPs presented a petition to Parliament last Thursday with more than 3000 signatures asking the Government to commit to funding this Road of National Significance including a continuous four-lane motorway from Tauranga to Katikati, a grade separated connection from O¯ mokoroa onto SH2 and the Katikati bypass.
SH2 is a two-star safety rated road on a five star scale. The AA said it is “one of, if not the highest risk” highways in NZ.
Mr Simpson, MP for Coromandel, said the previous Government had committed to building a Tauranga to Katikati Expressway as part of Roads of National Significance, but it is clear now that the new Government has other priorities.
“This road would have seen a continuous four-lane highway from Tauranga to Katikati with wide lanes, grade-separated intersections and a centre barrier to separate traffic coming from the other direction — all vital safety improvements for a modern road.
“In 2016 then Minister of Transport Simon Bridges committed $520 million to build the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL). That project was going to be a completely upgraded fourlane highway and would have been under way by now, if this Government hadn’t slashed highway funding.
“The new plans for this Government’s TNL includes a new two-lane road between Te Puna and Tauranga, with incentives for public transport and high-occupancy vehicles.”
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said this was woefully inadequate, showed no understanding of the needs of the community, and lacked any future vision for the Bay.
“It’s been watered down to the point where it’s unrecognisable. It’s the TNL in name only.”
Fix the Bloody Roads campaign spokesman Andrew Hollis was invited to speak to the Select Committee when the petition was presented. He changed his planned speech after hearing that morning there had been a serious accident on SH2 between a car and a truck, leaving a woman trapped.
“This changed my feeling toward one of the pain of travelling the road, of the cringe when the local sirens go, wondering who in the community is affected on SH2 today. Of the frustration of being told a project is under way and then that the funding has been taken to fund often ego projects in Auckland, such as the light rail on Dominion Road. And of the fear of our youth who are about to learn to drive on an incredibly congested road with ever increasing accidents, including one fatal crash every quarter for the past 10 years and a serious life-changing injury crash every month.”
Instead he spoke about the cost to the community of $50 million per annum in emergency services and community costs, “let alone the four dead community members for every year of delay”.
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber planned to be at the presentation but due to the crash did not make it. His presentation was delivered by Mr Muller. It stated that: “In 1991 when the population of the district was over 29,000 our Council designated O¯ mokoroa as a growth node. Our population now stands at 49,000. In 2003 the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) was designated to upgrade the highway between O¯ mokoroa and Tauranga to enable safe journeys to and from the peninsula. The resource consent was granted in
2017 and the project was to be tendered by NZ Transport Agency in February 2018. Since
1998 Council has spent over
$100m on infrastructure in O¯ mokoroa to enable it to house
12,000 people by 2050.
“We as a Council — in good faith — predicated our investment in O¯ mokoroa on the promise from the Government that the TNL and O¯ mokoroa interchange would be built by
2012 to cater for that growth. Most of the land has been purchased.
“We are tired of the rhetoric. We urge this government to find it in your hearts — but more importantly in your budgets — to deliver on the promises of the many governments since 2004 — and fix our bloody road now!”
Muller said the Bay is booming and he wants to see the government commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs.
“Regional New Zealand deserves better — our communities deserve better.”
MPs Todd Muller, left and Scott Simpson with Fix the Bloody Roads campaigner Andrew Hollis presenting the petition to Parliament.