Traffic-hater camps in city to avoid SH2 jams
Growing tally of motorists fed up with delays on highway stretch
An O¯ mokoroa man fed up with delays on State Highway 2 has gone to extreme lengths to avoid traffic jams on a notorious stretch of road.
Steve, who did not give his last name, elected to spend the night in his campervan rather than risk being caught in traffic and missing an appointment.
The meeting was scheduled for 10am last Friday in Tauranga, so he left home at 11pm the night before and stayed in his self-contained campervan, at a freedom camping ground at Sulphur Point.
Steve is among a growing number of motorists frustrated with delays on the stretch of highway, used by more than 25,000 vehicles a day.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the Tauranga City Council are carrying out separate roading projects between O¯ mokoroa and Bethlehem and have warned delays will continue for some time.
Councils and the transport agency say they are aware of motorists’ frustration.
Steve said it was worth spending the night in his campervan to skip the traffic, even though the vehicle uses more fuel than his other cars and he must pay associated road user charges.
He plans to camp in Tauranga again later this week to avoid the delays. “I hate traffic.”
A month ago he and his wife were caught in resealing works just outside of Katikati.
The couple left O¯ mokoroa at 10am to catch a 4pm flight out of Auckland.
When they had moved just 200 metres in 20 minutes, they turned around and went over the Kaimai Ranges to make the flight on time.
Other commuters are also taking drastic steps to avoid using the stretch of road.
O¯ mokoroa mum-of-two Ebony Kahukura is putting her newly built home of two years up for rent and applying for Tauranga rentals after her commute went from 25 minutes last year to between an hour and 90 minutes now.
Although it would be slightly dearer than her mortgage, she said it would make life easier for her young family.
Meanwhile, Waka Kotahi said a mechanical failure with an asphalt paver between the Wairoa River Bridge and Bethlehem delayed the road reopening on Thursday by almost an hour.
A replacement vehicle was needed to complete the work before traffic could restart.
Maintenance and operations regional manager Rob Campbell said the agency postponed a night closure from Sunday to Wednesday due to the weather and to “try and give road users some breathing space”. “Weather has a huge part to play in how quickly we can complete this work. The more good weather we have, the quicker we’ll be out of the way,” he said.
It aimed to finish the resurfacing works by mid-June.
After this, the Tauranga City Council Wairoa Cycleway project would begin night works on SH2 to build a signalised intersection near the cul-desac of Carmichael Rd.
“We acknowledge that travel times may be longer than usual for the next month or so, and remind road users to plan ahead, and where possible to consider alternative travel options and/or times,” Campbell said.
He said the work was part of the annual road renewals programme on the state highway network, which had resealed or rebuilt more than 170km of roads in the region over the past nine months.
“By 2050 the Western Bay of Plenty is projected to be home to 258,000 residents, requiring 34,000 more homes and generating one million movements per day on our transport network.”
Campbell said there were several ongoing projects on or near SH2, including safety upgrades between Waih¯ı and O¯ mokoroa, which were estimated to be completed in 2026.
The Takitimu North Link Stage One project was estimated to be done by mid-2027.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council infrastructure group general manager and deputy chief executive Gary Allis previously said it was exploring ways to get traffic moving faster, including closing off some side roads used as rat runs that added friction to the “highway flow”.
“The fundamental issue is that the road is being used beyond its capacity.”
Capacity was further limited over the past couple of weeks by SH2 roadworks.
Allis said the immediate problem “should improve slightly” as the roadworks were completed.
They were scheduled to last three months, but the situation might ease earlier as the road surface improved, he said. “The long-term problem would improve once the Takitimu North Link Stage One is built.”
Tauranga City Council director of transport Brendan Bisley previously said daytime delays on SH2 were due to traffic volumes, seasonal work and people changing their commute habits.
He said the council acknowledged work for the Wairoa Cycleway also contributed.
Waka Kotahi said on May 11 that there were two pieces of work on the stretch, which was “incredibly sensitive” to changes in traffic flow.
Two weeks ago, the agency started a major rehabilitation of SH2, between the Wairoa bridge and Bethlehem.
Work included completely rebuilding and asphalting the road surface and was due to continue until next month.
Campbell said on May 17 that there had been an increase of more than 6000 vehicles per day on the corridor in the past 10 years, rising from about 18,300 in 2012 to current estimates of more than 25,000.
He said the works were being done at night, with both lanes open during the day and a 50km/h limit in place to minimise disruption.
The “sheer volume” of traffic appeared to be the main cause of congestion.
He said traffic data showed drivers were staggering the time they travelled on SH2, with peak travel expanding from 6am to 9am to its current span of 6am to 10.30am.
More than $900 million was being invested in the corridor, which “will save lives”.