Hob­biton traf­fic Shire hell for neigh­bours

Sunday Star-Times - - News - Kel­ley Tan­tau

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.

An­nette Con­der

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.