Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Bomb scare, accidents, Fridayitis, bad weather: result, traffic chaos

A Defence Force member photographs a suspicious package in Queen St.  Photo / Greg Bowker
A Defence Force member photographs a suspicious package in Queen St. Photo / Greg Bowker

There was traffic chaos throughout Auckland last night with motorways clogged so badly it took some motorists more than an hour longer than usual to get home.

It followed an afternoon where a bomb scare brought traffic to a standstill in the inner city when a section of Queen St was closed after a suspicious device was found.

The Defence Force was called to examine and take the package away for testing and Queen St was re-opened - but soon after rush hour traffic became a slow crawl home for thousands of people.

Unlike the accident that paralysed the city on March 7 - where a single car crash caused massive delays for hours - authorities believe several factors, including the weather, combined to cause the latest traffic woes.

Inspector Willy Taylor, of police northern communication centre, said there had been some minor crashes, but doubted they would have had too much impact on traffic flows.

"There were some on the northwestern motorway and the southern motorway, so they would be holding some things up, beyond just the normal crawl.

"People have probably got [today] as a holiday in mind, they just need to be a little patient."

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan had heard anecdotal reports a lot of people were taking tomorrow off to have a long weekend, so people leaving the city was likely a reason traffic flows were higher than normal.

Many motorists took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

Twitter user Carlos said it took him 40 minutes to travel 200m, and Kate Reeve Rushbrook tweeted it was the worst traffic she had ever seen.

Phillip Kent said: "25 minutes to move 500 metres. Good one Auckland traffic! I've seen erosion move faster," while Danielle Salvador said: "Took me an hour to get home from Northcote to Mt Wellington. Freaking Auckland traffic."

Meanwhile, Defence Force experts were still trying to identify the suspicious package which caused the first of the day's disruptions.

Mr Taylor said the package had been made safe and was not an explosive device but it may take some time to be identified.

Police had not ruled out the possibility that the package was deliberately intended to look like a bomb.

"We don't know that it isn't a mimic device and that it wasn't left there with some intent ... We are aware of global events and it just puts the hairs up on your neck more than usual."

The package was left at a bus stop at 305 Queen St, outside Q Theatre, near the Town Hall, and was reported by a member of the public at 1pm.

About 20 police and three or four Defence Force personnel were involved in the response, which included closing a section of Queen St between Mayoral Drive and Wakefield St to pedestrians and traffic. A Defence Force robot fired a "water-based charge" at the package, which is designed to cause an explosive device to blow up.

The package did not explode, so was then packed in blast-proof material and taken to a Defence Force facility for further investigation.

Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer tweeted yesterday afternoon that councillors were unable to leave the Town Hall, which was inside the cordon. Mr Brewer said a budget planning session with Waitemata local board members was interrupted by a message they were unable to leave because of a bomb scare.

"Some of us found that instruction to stay put counterintuitive and a little bit nerve-wracking.

"We took some precautionary measures by drawing the curtains around the council chamber to deflect any shattering glass, and we carried on with discussions."

Auckland traffic chaos

* A bomb scare brought CBD traffic to a standstill when a section of Queen St was closed for hours yesterday afternoon.
* A suspicious package was left at a bus stop outside Q Theatre, near the town hall, and was reported by a member of the public at 1pm.
* The package was deactivated 2 hours later.
Last night's gridlock saw rush hour jams escalate from 5pm.
* Congestion was caused by minor crashes, weather and long-weekend clogged arterial routes.

- additional reporting: APNZ

- NZ Herald

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