Hobbiton traffic Shire hell for neighbours
Annette Conder of Chooky’s Auto, a business with the best view of vehicle collisions in the Waikato, is so used to crashes that her staff have a plan to follow when they hear the screech of tyres and the subsequent boom.
The neighbour to one of New Zealand’s busiest tourist attractions – Hobbiton in rural Matamata – is one of many voicing subtle discontent with the surge in tourists barrelling down what are essentially country roads as the movie set’s bosses apply to increase the number of annual visitors permitted.
Between 2016 and
2017 it breached its resource consent by hosting more than half a million tourists, when its consent allows for 300,000. Now it’s applying to cater to 650,000 visitors per annum, and it wants to put in accommodation.
Conder insists she doesn’t have a problem with Hobbiton but ‘‘the council needs to put the infrastructure in place’’.
‘‘Ultimately a roundabout here is the thing that is going to solve this, but we want shortterm solutions now.’’
In 2016, an American tourist was killed at the Hobbiton intersection and on December 10 a two-car collision left seven injured. Days later, a police patrol witnessed a near-miss when tourists turned in front of a truck and on January 3 a local man’s dashcam footage captured a rental car turning into the wrong lane.
Given the thriving Shire is worth millions to the MatamataPiako district economy, locals spoken to yesterday by the StarTimes were understandably reluctant to criticise it.
But the agreement was the same: if Hobbiton wants to keep luring tourists in, authorities need to put in some infrastructure to keep drivers safe.
The council is preparing to hear submissions on the resource consent application.