All talk, no action
A Government transport minister and a political party leader had public meetings in Katikati in 2016 to hear of the community’s concerns travelling the notorious SH2 to Tauranga, and why a bypass was essential for the economy and wellbeing of the town.
Was that all political spin to get our vote? Clearly two years on nothing has happened, except the highway has claimed more victims, including myself in March this year.
I attended both meetings. On August 4 National leader Simon Bridges faced a hostile crowd demanding to know why, after 40 years or more, the bypass was still not on the government’s work programme. He was given a clear message that Katikati not only wanted a bypass — it needed it for safety, social, economic and health reasons.
Three months later on November 20 NZ First Leader Winston Peters spoke to a crowd of 300.
“Katikati has been calling for a bypass for donkey’s years and been fobbed off. The question is how much longer will you have to wait to get one and how many more excuses will you put up with for the delays? If the government had seized the initiative years ago this bypass would have been put in place.”
Bridges did have success. On March 14, 2017 NZTA announced that a bypass would be added to its SH2 Waihi to Tauranga programme. In May Katikati celebrated the news with a street party. How shortlived that was.
A change of government. Peters is deputy Prime Minister, and still no bypass. Transport Minister Philip Twyford said they have no intention of building a bypass for Katikati.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said a petition to Parliament on November 8 has been given to the NZTA officials — “who will no doubt provide a response consistent with Phil Twyford’s, ‘we will build it sometime in the never-never response’.”
“I intend to keep the heat on, consistently sending questions to his department until he answers this basic question — when will construction start on the fourlane Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) which was announced in 2016, and was ready to begin last month?
“His response to date is woeful, he talks about safety improvements and more money for Auckland infrastructure, leaving my community with promises of a two-lane TNL to be built sometime in the future.”
Western Bay Councillor Peter Mackay said he was concerned about growing community anguish.
“Several local residents have suggested that “pork barrel politics” are to blame and there are just are not sufficient Labour, NZ First and Green votes coming from Katikati to justify Government spending on a bypass for our community.”
Council taking over the bypass project is fraught with serious cost implications. Mackay was told for every $10m Council borrows, interest costs would increase District-wide rates of about 1 per cent.
“When that is put against an indicative bypass cost over $50m, the project is not affordable, unless Government comes to the party with a very large cash injection.
“Short of a miracle, I see no prospect of a bypass being built under the policies that NZTA are operating with at present.”
Deputy mayor Mike Williams agreed.
“Katikati has once again been relegated to the forgotten pile and the quality of life in the town will suffer and the Main Street shopping with lose custom to
Bethlehem and exacerbate the traffic woes along SH2 as people leave to do their shopping elsewhere.
“It is an understatement to say the people are angry out there and feel that the roading priorities are tilted strongly in Auckland’s favour.”
Williams felt the two most important projects were the O¯ mokoroa intersection and four lanes from Te Puna to Tauranga.
“For these not to have any time frame around them is a stab in the heart for the region. These roads were constructed in the late 50s early 60s with very low traffic volumes. Since then traffic has skyrocketed and neither political party has invested in this section of road — now making this a political hot potato.”
“As of now Council is in the hands of NZTA who will meet next on December 24,” Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said.
Council was taking every opportunity to meet with senior NZTA executives and politicians. He met with Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones last Friday.
“At the SmartGrowth level we have the full support of Tauranga City Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council that our roading projects are an urgent priority.”
Katikati locals made their safety concerns clear at a meeting on August 4, 2016 with Transport Minister Simon Bridges and officials.
On November 20 that same year Winston Peters asked how long the community was prepared to wait for a bypass.