The family of 5-year-old Shinia Matehaere, who was killed in a collision with a car, gathered in Matapihi to mourn the loss of their little girl last night but questions are being raised about the safety of the road.
Emergency services were called to the intersection of Matapihi and Waikari Rds in Tauranga at 1.20pm on Saturday after the girl was hit by a four-wheel drive while riding her pink-and-white bike with her 8-year-old cousin.
The driver of the utility vehicle which hit Shinia tried to save the girl.
Yesterday, people gathered at Waikari Marae in the rain as family members waited for their wee girl to be brought home. A flower pinwheel was placed at the site of the accident, with messages of love and farewell. Underneath the pinwheel, a wrapped present was sealed in zip-lock bag to keep it safe from the rain.
Messages of love and support flowed to the girl's parents on social media.
James Herewini wrote: "deep down In my thoughts I am devastated to hear about your little princess my kuz, your love, your life your everything! Stay strong my kuz and da whanau..Kia kaha te whanau!!"
Another tribute from Leeanne Hoko read: "Mad love coming to u hine an the babies my nephew so heart breaking I cannot imagine the pain ur all going through right now bigggg loveys too u our babies and niece ... Kia kaha whanau bring our darling girl home safe c u real soon xoxoxo."
Shinia and her cousin were believed to have been crossing the road at the time, on their way to Te Matapihi Kohanga Reo.
A leader at the school of the 5-year-old opened up about the tragedy.
Shinia Matehaere had just finished her first term at Te Kura o Matapihi, and Board of Trustees chairman Spencer Webster said staff and the wider community were "deeply saddened by the tragic loss".
"Our immediate priorities are to join with her whanau and the Matapihi community to mourn her passing and to provide support for our whanau and our staff and students at this extremely difficult time."
Emergency services were called to the intersection of Matapihi and Waikari Rds in Tauranga at 1.20pm on Saturday after the girl was hit by a four-wheel drive vehicle while riding her pink and white bike with her 8-year-old cousin.
Mr Webster said the school was yet to decide how they would officially honour Shinia.
A resident who lived in the vicinity of the crash said there was an "almighty bang" as the accident happened.
"It didn't sound like what it was but then I went out there ... She was lying on the ground, it was absolutely terrible. It's a hard thing to talk about, a little girl has died.
"I woke up [yesterday] and just thought, 'that poor, innocent, little girl'. A freak accident."
The resident said they had not seen the driver of the vehicle before in the neighbourhood. He appeared distraught and was quickly taken away by police.
Her pink bike lay smashed on the pavement just metres from their front gate.
"It was a very sad day," another neighbour said.
Emergency services remained at the accident scene for several hours, with the road closed, on Saturday.
The police serious crash unit was investigating the crash.
Matapihi's Charlie Timutimu said the speed limit of the road had been a concern to locals for many years, especially after 22-year-old father-of-two Justin Phillip Dickson died when his motorbike hit a digger parked on Matapihi Rd in 2014.
Mr Timutimu said residents addressed their concerns to the council after the 2014 crash but never heard back.
The speed limit of Matapihi Rd was 80km/h, with the stretch of the road where Shinia died lowered slightly to 70km/h.
Mr Timutimu said residents felt the limit should be 50km/h or 60km/h as traffic was becoming much heavier.
"There's been quite an increase of traffic coming into and going out of Matapihi.
"There's also been an increase in the traffic along the footpath; cyclists and pedestrians use that path to go into Tauranga along the rail bridge."
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the young girl's death was a tragedy and if there was something the council could do to reduce the chances of another tragedy, it would do so.
The council was investigating whether any requests to lower the speed limit had been made in the past and the results of this investigation should be ready by Tuesday, Mr Crosby said.
He knew of requests for a pedestrian crossing opposite Te Kura o Matapihi, but this was on a different part of the road.
"We will look into those requests for speed reductions and certainly will be working with the other authorities as a result of this tragedy to see what actually happened and if anything else can be done.
"Often, it is just a tragedy," the mayor said.
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