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Residents “prisoners” over SH2 safety concerns

There is growing outrage over the decision to suspend part of the Takitimu North Link project. File photo. SunLive.

Some residents in Ōmokoroa are so scared of using State Highway 2 they feel like “prisoners” in the town, according to Coromandel MP Scott Simpson.

His comments echo those of Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller in light of the Government’s recent announcement of changes to the Stage Two construction of the Takitimu North Link.

At the start of June, Minister for Infrastructure Grant Robertson made the announcement regarding modifications to the project, citing debt issues.

Construction on Stage One of the project, which will see a 6.8km four-lane expressway between Tauranga and Te Puna, is slated to start later this year.

However, Stage Two of the project, which would have seen a 7km extension running from Te Puna to Ōmokoroa has been put on the back-burner.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges called the road a “killer road” last month when the announcement was made.

Route protection will be put in place as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme but funding for future construction will have to come via the National Land Transport Programme, with a minimum 10 year wait likely.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Regional Transport Committee chairman Lyall Thurston wrote in a letter to Transport Minister Michael Wood that the road is a “death trap” whilst expressing disappointment at the decision to pull Stage Two funding.

Lee, a resident who uses SH2 on his daily commute, says he has had a couple of near misses on the road and is anxious about driving with his young children in the car. 

“It’s a mess,” he says. 

“The amount of crashes and deaths on that road does make me wary about taking the kids in the car. 

“There have been a couple of occasions where, a split second later, I could have been toast.”

There have been numerous serious crashes on the stretch of road in recent years. Just last month, on June 21, one person died following a serious crash between Snodgrass Road and Te Puna Road.

That followed an earlier crash on the same day, near Clarke Road, in which two people suffered serious injuries.

According to Waka Kotahi Transport Agency statistics, provided from the Crash Analysis System road traffic crash database, there has been two serious injury crashes and 15 minor injury crashes in 2021 so far.

There was one fatal crash on SH2 between Katikati and Tauranga in 2020, five serious injury crashes and 20 minor injury crashes.

The data for 2020 and 2021 is, however, incomplete.

In 2019, there was also one fatal crash on the same stretch of road, with eight serious injuries, 18 minor injuries and 34 non-injury crashes, totalling 61 crashes overall in a year where traffic was reduced due to Covid-19 issues.

Scott Simpson.

In 2018, four fatal crashes, 12 serious crashes, 18 minor and 33 non-injury crashes were reported, totalling 67 overall.

Simpson, whose Coromandel electorate stretches along SH2 north of Whakamārama, is frustrated that Labour have pulled the plug on the plans.

“I was in Ōmokoroa on Friday and people are very angry,” says Simpson.

“People are scared. I have spoken to older citizens who are fearful of using that road at all and spoken to people who simply will not drive that road.

“They have, for all intents and purposes, become prisoners in Ōmokoroa. Not only will they not drive it, but they will not be driven on that piece of road either.”

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller agrees with the assertion that the stretch of SH2 from Tauranga to Katikati is a “death trap”.

Todd Muller.

He believes Labour have shown “willful neglect” of Western Bay of Plenty road users.

“It has been an appallingly long process, particularly over the past four years,” says Muller.

“Trying to get out of Ōmokoroa at the best of times is difficult and when the traffic builds up it becomes incredibly dangerous.

“I think this Government has shown willful neglect of the community here in the Western Bay of Plenty.

“This has been an absolutely critical piece of infrastructure for both safety and improved efficiency for a very long time.”

Both Simpson and Muller were highly critical of the decision to delay Stage Two of the Takitimu North Link whilst still pushing ahead with a $685 million pedestrian and cyclist bridge crossing over Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour.

“It is a massive kick in the guts to Western Bay residents and road users,” says Simpson.

“They are right to feel angry about the Government letting us down and actually prioritising Auckland’s walking and cycling needs ahead of road upgrades in the Bay of Plenty.”

Muller says there is absolutely no argument that a foot or cycle bridge in Auckland should be considered of greater importance than the necessary improvements along SH2.

“Contrasting the absolute necessity of this infrastructure for the safety of our community and the efficiency of freight to, at the same time, a multi-million dollar footbridge over Auckland Harbour, and seeing that as a greater priority, is just disgraceful,” he says.

Bay of Plenty Labour list MP, Angie Warren-Clark, says the Government had to take a balanced approach with New Zealand Upgrade Programme investments to secure economic recovery and keep a lid on debt.

Angie Warren-Clark.

She also highlights the start of Stage One of the project later this year as a safety improvement, and confirms the intention does remain to, eventually, initiate the Stage Two works.

“Despite the increased costs due to Covid, we’re increasing investment so that Takitimu North Link will start construction at the end of the year to support the region’s economic recovery and improve safety,” she says.

“We’re also proceeding with route protection for the next stage, which will be built in the future.

“We know safety is a major concern on SH2 and that’s why we’re continuing to build safety improvements along SH2 between Waihī and Ōmokoroa to help save lives.”

However, Simpson believes Labour never had any intention of fulfilling their promise, instead using SH2 as a political tool.

“They made a promise on it before the last election but in my view they never had any intention at all of carrying through on that promise,” he says.

“I think that the voters and the people living in the Western Bay were cynically manipulated for short-term political gain.”

He believes the road is now “the most dangerous and most lethal road on the New Zealand roading network” and that better roading infrastructure is needed for such a rapidly growing area.

“It is simply intolerable in an area that is growing as rapidly as the Western Bay of Plenty is,” he says.

“There is never going to be a time when fewer people want to use that road.

“Future-proofing that road now will not only help us now but future generations as well.”

 

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No Labour MP's

Posted on 09-07-2021 10:51 | By Ross54

I would just about bet my next years superannuation that if any Labour MP of any consequence lived between Tauranga and Waihi that the whole problem would have been fixed by now

Labour farce

Posted on 08-07-2021 13:37 | By

Thank you SunLive for doing some reporting on this issue. Farcical is Labour MP’s mockery of a reply saying its cynical of National who had no intention of doing the work. Come on you as LABOUR canned it, then re-instated it to CAN it again. Hypocritical is the word, all the carnage and death. You found $340M for Antarctic that no one really will use!

Please Don't Suggest it!

Posted on 08-07-2021 13:26 | By Justin T.

We already have the slow driving locals that speed up on the overtaking lane then slow down against thereafter..... and we have already dropped the speed limit by 20ks and yet they go even slower. There’s enough danger at 6:30am in the dark with Orchard Sprayers and Tractors as it is, coming round a corner to find everything at a cycling pace if not full stop. And as for civil disobedience.... I’ve been abused for compulsory stopping at a stop sign when there was a gap in traffic and the car off the road for a month because I got rear-ended as I stopped at the same sign. Road Rules People..... you wouldn’t have got your license if you tried running any of the 11 compulsory stop signs between Omokoroa and TePuna during an exam so what makes it right now.

Really?? Professor

Posted on 08-07-2021 12:21 | By

You say "If drivers are that scared of a junction/road, then you have to question whether they should be driving at all." I assume you will be petitioning a more frequent bus service for such people. in the meantime you’re not going to just pluck your CONFIDENT drivers out of the trees. Stick to you opening statement and leave it at that.

Unbelievable

Posted on 08-07-2021 10:51 | By If only

that our Bay of Plenty Liebour list MP can justify the delay in sorting this mess out !. What rock does she live under ? She should be pounding on the door of the Transport Minister seeking the early reinstatement of this project

Action not words

Posted on 08-07-2021 10:19 | By dennor

This is the most disingenuous, condescending, cynical government I can remember in my 70 years. Come on the Professor, Omokoroa was designated an urban growth area in the late 1990’s on the proviso that the infrastructure was put in place. Haha!! It is absolutely beyond belief that money has been found and fast tracked for the Wellington passenger rail to be extended to Levin as reported today. Omokoroa to Bethleheim blocked again today, says it all. I couldn’t get to town for my covid jab. Wow Jacinda and your bunch of merry men what do you say about that. Just a frown and grin as usual!! Access and congestion on SH2 Katikati to Tauranga must be costing our economy tens of millions per year not counting the extra pollution. Enough said, time for civil disobedience now.

@ Wigan

Posted on 08-07-2021 10:11 | By

Yes!!! That’s what the residents need to do.....a rolling road block is a great idea. And they need to keep happening until Cindy takes action. The cyclists got their own way in Auckland, now it’s time for Omokoroa to take action to get their own way!! Enough is enough Jacinda.

Ridiculous

Posted on 08-07-2021 10:05 | By

We have councils around the country using crash statistics to justify the need for traffic calming measures (stationary traffic and congestion) and we have a government heavily focused on popularity polls rather than statistics that show carnage and loss of life. Maybe if the cycling community was affected...

Screwed!

Posted on 08-07-2021 07:57 | By

OK so what next? National said they would fix it then lost the election. Labour canned it then reinstated it as an election bribe & now they have canned it again. All local MPs are National so they can’t do any more & it will be 10 years before we even see this be back on the radar. Maybe it is time for ACTION not words? We can’t block the road, but a bit of civil disobedience with few hundred slow driving locals plus a few tractors will draw more attention to the stupidity of this decision. Jacinda your stupid condecending smile did the trick last year, but now you really need to do some real work for the people of the Western Bay & NZ

Really??

Posted on 08-07-2021 07:50 | By

Come on now - we all know that this junction needs sorting and that the TNL needs to go ahead, but really, do we need this melodramatic approach? If drivers are that scared of a junction/road, then you have to question whether they should be driving at all!! We need safe CONFIDENT drivers on the roads to make them safe. Scream and shout at the Government and even protest through non-payment of rates.....but please, cut out the drama.