Lines drawn over new Te Puke road layout

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A new roading layout that has created a manoeuvring area for vehicles to enter and exit angle carparks on Jellicoe St has proved to be contentious.
A new roading layout that has created a manoeuvring area for vehicles to enter and exit angle carparks on Jellicoe St has proved to be contentious.

As work continues on changes to traffic flow and the beautification of Te Puke town centre, newly re-elected Western Bay of Plenty councillor Kevin Marsh is adamant the decision to carry out the work should be revisited.

A month ago Mr Marsh indicated his intention to lodge a notice of motion to reverse the previous council's 9-2 decision to back the project. Among the changes is the conversion of the left-hand lane in part of the shopping area to a manoeuvring area for cars to enter and exit angle carparks.

"I personally remain strongly opposed to the single lane as set out by the redevelopment plan, both from my experience and also from others," he said in a written statement.

"I sat and observed traffic flows a few days ago, and I was concerned to see many near misses, and drivers having difficulties re-merging into traffic flows, after backing out from parking spaces."

He said, to be fair to those who lobbied strongly in its favour, there was a need to give the road layout a chance to prove that it could work.

"The redevelopment was commenced in an indecent hurry, in my opinion, well before the election process was completed, and it is well on the way, with contractors working night and day. I am very supportive of the spruce up, which is long overdue, but not at the risk of through traffic being held up, or difficulties around any confusion over one or two lanes feeding into roundabouts.

"When the initial proposal went through Council, there was an assurance given, that if it didn't work, it was an easy process to get it reversed, and that is my commitment to Te Puke people."

Mr Marsh and fellow Te Puke/Maketu ward member John Scrimgeour were the two councillors who voted against the redevelopment proposals.

"I have heard a few comments that are supportive of the changes, but I have to say most of the feedback is negative to very negative," said Cr Scrimgeour.

"There have been concerns about cars trying to use the roundabouts where they are double laned as passing lanes and [about] the difficulty for people once they back out into the turning lane. They have struggled accessing the main flow of traffic.

"It's a bit sad that it's all so negative, but we just have to try and be patient until the work's done ... My position always was that I was opposed to the changes and I'm not convinced. It will make things different. Whether it makes things better is another matter."

Former district councillor Karyl Gunn-Thomas who, as a councillor, voted for the work to go ahead said there was a need to look at the big picture.

"I am even more confident that this is the right thing for the community," she said.
"It has slowed traffic down, which is a good thing. There has also been a marked reduction in the number of trucks coming through the town."

She said the work had stopped people using Te Puke as a passing opportunity and people pulling into and out of the angled car parks can now do so with confidence.
"There is a lot of discontent at the moment with all the roading work being done but I ask people to be patient - it's short-term pain for long-term gain."

The upgrade, and other work on the Te Puke Highway, has largely been funded by the NZ Transport Agency. The funding is part of an agreement with Western Bay of Plenty District Council and relates to the handover of former SH2 after the opening of the Tauranga Eastern Link.

The money associated with the highway handover has to be used by July 2017 and Ms Gunn-Thomas said that was why there was so much ongoing work on the Te Puke Highway.

Kerry Amer from Clippers in Jellicoe St said he hadn't seen any near misses resulting from the changed roading layout, but he was against it.

Rod Pearce of Te Puke Jewellers, who admitted to being "not particularly happy", said he hoped the changes worked. He had reservations, especially about how the new layout would cope at times of increased traffic flow, such as peak kiwifruit season.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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