TOP STORY: Backlash as drivers sent over Kaimais

By Michele Hunter

Bay people driving between Tauranga and Auckland will be encouraged to take the longer route skirting Hamilton in future _ and truckies are not impressed.
Transit New Zealand has decided that over the next 20 years it will concentrate on making State Highways 1 and 29 the main route between Auckland and Tauranga.
It means SH2 through Katikati, presently used as the main route to Auckland, and even SH27 through Matamata, will be relegated to tourism and commuter roads to Coromandel and east Waikato.
Transit's latest thinking is that over the next two decades the $1 billion, four-lane Waikato Expressway will be completed, with bypasses at Huntly, Ngaruawahia, Hamilton and Cambridge.
And it will be easier, and possibly quicker, to travel SH1, turning on to SH29 for Tauranga at Piarere just south of Lake Karapiro _ since SH2 from Tauranga to Waihi Beach will be more congested as a result of residential development.
Nearly two years ago Transit NZ signalled that SH27 through Matamata should be the main route between Auckland and Tauranga.
Chris Allen, Transit NZ regional manager, told the Bay Land Transport Committee that his national board had now decided to make SH1 and SH29 over the Kaimai Ranges as the main route between Auckland and Tauranga.
"We will be directing our medium- and long-term investment to this strategy," he said.
This included looking at four-laning the road over the Kaimais.
Derek Dumbar, director of Road Transport Association's No2 region, said at the land transport meeting in Whakatane that heavy transport operators would not think of taking a longer route.
"The shortest route is the best because that's the cheapest _ time doesn't matter," he said.
"The truckies will use the shorter route every time, even Katikati ahead of Matamata," said Mr Dumbar.
The extra 28km of travelling on SH1 and SH29 as opposed to SH2 would cost heavy transport operators another $125 for a return trip from the Mount to Pokeno, or the bottom of the Bombays, he said.
"The Transit NZ strategy is fatally flawed _ the [SH 1/29] route does not stack up economically," said Mr Dumbar.
The No2 region of the Road Transport Association _ representing Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Thames Valley, and Poverty Bay _ unanimously voted against the Transit NZ strategy at its annual meeting a week ago.
The association said Transit NZ must upgrade the other transport routes to Tauranga in tandem with the four-lane SH1 from Auckland to Piarere.
But Transit's Mr Allen said Karangahake Gorge was a choke point on SH2 and it would not be four-laned.
The gorge is a significant environmental and tourist area, and "we are quite terrified by the plans Department of Conservation has to attract tourism growth", he said.

"We have work ahead of us just to maintain the functionality of the road through the gorge."
"The growth on the northern corridor from Tauranga to Waihi Beach will also have a lot of side friction," Mr Allen said.
"There will be a lot of development and accesses on to SH2 and it's impossible to find places to put safe passing lanes."
Mr Allen said by opening up the road through Mercer some motorists will turn off at Ohinewai and drive to Tahuna, then on to SH27 and through to Tauranga.
"But as we build the Hamilton and Cambridge bypasses, more traffic will be attracted to SH1 and across the Kaimais.
"I accept that traffic will take the road they like, but Transit NZ doesn't want to pour investment in to a whole multitude of routes. It has to make strategic decisions and you don't want a four-lane route competing with the Waikato Expressway," said Mr Allen.
He indicated that over the next 10 years investigations and design work would still take place for the Tauranga northern arterial to Te Puna, a roundabout at the Omokoroa intersection with SH2 and a bypass at Katikati.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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