There will be up to 42,000 fewer vehicles a week going through Te Puke when the Tauranga Eastern Link (TEL) is completed. But despite the potential loss of business, leaders believe the change is an opportunity not a threat.
Gary Allis, Western Bay of Plenty District Council engineering services group manager, said the vast majority of that traffic would not have stopped in town anyway and 13,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day were still likely to travel into and through the Main Street.
Although lower traffic volumes may result in reduced customer numbers for businesses, Te Puke was a destination in its own right, he said.
"Te Puke is the kiwifruit capital of New Zealand and a horticulture, business and retail town with a focus on servicing the surrounding area."
A reduction of heavy traffic through the retail area would also create opportunities for businesses and reduce restrictions on development, he said.
Te Puke Economic Development Group managing director Mark Boyle said it was an "opportunity not a threat" and a chance for locals to "take the town back".
"We have had a long period of time with all this through traffic. If we can get a lot of these logging and stock trucks off the road we can do a lot of positive work about creating a better ambience and environment."
Continued growth in the kiwifruit industry would also benefit Te Puke, he said.
"We are going to see the need for people travelling to and from Te Puke as a result of that growth."
Red Rose Cafe owner Rob Lawrence was in favour of the diversion.
The Main Street retailer said he had no concerns because New World would not have spent millions on a new building and BP would not have completed its major upgrade without predictive planning.
"That would have included the foot traffic and if those two companies are prepared to spend that sort of money in the CBD I have no concerns at all."
The elimination of heavy trucks was also welcomed.
"We get a lot of vibration caused by the trucks so if we can lose that traffic, I'm smiling."
One Step Beyond Cafe co-owner Dave Young said the TEL was bound to have an effect but it would not be long term.
"At the start it will be quieter because everyone will want to take the new route and have a look. But I believe it will level out and won't make much difference at all."
NZ Transport Agency's TEL senior project manager Wayne Troughton said by 2016 it estimated about 6000 vehicles would use the TEL each day and that figure was expected to grow.
The project is six months ahead of schedule, he said.
"It was due to be complete in 2016 and is on track to be completed late 2015."
The total budget, including enabling works, was $455 million and on budget, he said.
At some point after the TEL opened, SH2 from the new Paengaroa roundabout to Domain Road would become a council road rather than a state highway, Mr Allis said.
"Council has been working with the Te Puke Community Board and the New Zealand Transport Authority on concepts for SH2 once TEL opens, including plans for upgrading the town centre to No3 Road section of SH2 to improve amenity, access, pedestrian and cycling links ... "
The Te Puke Economic Development Group had developed concept plans to change the main street through the retail area to improve pedestrian access, reduce vehicle speeds and improve parking access.
"This is concept at this stage and requires traffic modelling and safety analysis technical input," he said.