Gridlock and mayhem hit Auckland's busiest roads and motorways yesterday as thousands of motorists sat in sweltering heat trying to get to events taking place in the city.
Heavy traffic caused Prime Minister Helen Clark to be 25 minutes late for opening the Chinese New Year Racing Carnival at Ellerslie Racecourse.
More than 20,000 attending the Devonport Food and Wine Festival, another 20,000 were at the racing carnival and 80,000 visited Mission Bay for the Jazz and Blues Streetfest. Adding to congestion at Greenlane were shoppers after a bargain at a clothing sale at the Auckland Showgrounds.
The arrival of the world's largest ocean liner the Queen Mary 2 in Auckland Harbour saw thousands of sightseers cramming roads and vantage points to catch a glimpse of floating luxury. Traffic into the city began building up again in the late afternoon as Aucklanders drove in for a look at the giant liner, towering above Jellicoe container wharf, and to farewell the ship as she left the port last night.
Extra buses and ferries were scheduled to cope with thousands of people trying to get to the North Shore for the wine and food festival but traffic on the Harbour Bridge remained thick all day. Stall holders worked feverishly to serve customers, including many passengers from the Queen Mary 2.
"It's going fantastically well, we're almost rushed off out feet," Glen Candy, from the Montana wine stand said. "It's all hands to the pump."
Aucklander Victoria Nielsen and her friends took advantage of Fullers' almost non-stop ferry service to get to Devonport and void traffic jams. "We had a champagne breakfast in the city first, then came over on the ferry. And got a wine straight away - first thing we did," she said.
Mark Christian, manager of Manuka Restaurant in Devonport, said hundreds of cars had blocked the roads into Devonport early in the morning. He expected the same, or worse, traffic problems when the food and wine festival came to an end.
"All the people get kicked out at the same time, and thousands of intoxicated people will be roaming the streets."
On the other side of the bridge, both the southern and northern motorways were almost at a standstill at midday yesterday and Spaghetti Junction was congested for most of the day.
In the late afternoon traffic began building up on the North-western motorway as speedway fans headed for the New Zealand Sprint Car Championships at the Western Springs Speedway.
Tamzin Linnell, who travelled into the city from Albany in the afternoon using the Northern Express bus, said it took her twice as long to get into town because congestion was forcing cars into the bus lanes. "It took about 40 minutes which is probably twice as long as it normally takes.
- HERALD ON SUNDAY