Community leaders are vowing to ensure a proposed roading project that could improve the safety of a treacherous stretch of road between Tauranga and Katikati moves forward.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and his Coromandel counterpart Scott Simpson have launched a campaign to save the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane upgrade plan promised by the previous National government because they say new Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, has indicated the project is under review.
Muller says without the upgrade, the region would not only be held back economically "but more importantly, every time you turn right from Omokoroa on to State Highway 2 you have a sense of taking your life into your own hands a bit".
But Labour is calling the National MPs' comments "scaremongering" and "misleading" and say the upgrade has never been a confirmed project but rather an election campaign promise made by National.
The proposed Road of National Significance included the Tauranga Northern Link and would see a continuous four-lane State Highway with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and other safety measures stretching from Tauranga to Katikati, Muller said.
He said, with the region's huge population growth, the four-lane upgrade was critical for ease of traffic and also safety.
"Places like Omokoroa are burgeoning and that's great for the community but the commute in is just a disaster on most mornings."
"When I was a young fella that right turn felt dangerous and now when you multiply the sheer numbers of cars and trucks that are on that road, it's a really challenging turn. And everybody knows it and it just has to be fixed."
Muller said Labour's response to the petition and campaign was "nonsense".
"The reality is they have other priorities of the Government and they have to stand by those. My real concern is that it feels like they are going to underspend in Tauranga's critical infrastructure and for a city which is now the fifth biggest in the country and growing at the fastest rate in the country, it deserves better.
A spokeswoman for Twyford said National was "scaremongering" and the Labour-led Government had not altered any existing roading projects and had not made changes to the Omokoroa to Te Puna 7km upgrade, which was announced by the Transport Agency in December.
"The Labour-led Government has not altered any existing roading projects except Auckland's East-West link and officials are working to identify a lower-cost, better-value option," the spokeswoman said.
"It's important to note that the other 'highway projects' referred to in National's petition do not exist. They were election campaign promises made by National in August and never costed or funded."
The spokeswoman said the NZ Transport Agency had advised funding for road upgrades could not be redirected into rail, "so National's concerns raised in its petition are unfounded".
"To suggest the Government isn't going ahead with projects that don't exist is misleading. And to suggest non-existing funding be diverted into rail is nonsensical."
Katch Katikati's Jacqui Knight did not wish to comment on the latest developments as she had not yet had a chance to read up on them and catch up.
But she said anything that improved the congestion problems between the two centres was important.
"I think for Katikati the main focus for us is to have the bypass or alternate route through town so that we can reclaim our main street a bit more and create more of an atmosphere in town.
Western Bay's mayor Garry Webber said when the announcement was made before the election, it was couched with "if we get re-elected".
"So we knew that was going to be the case.
"But nevertheless, we are continuing to lobby any politician we can to say, hey, the road between Katikati and Tauranga is the most dangerous road in New Zealand.
"We have been lobbying central government for several years now on the basis that that stretch of road … is the most dangerous piece of road in New Zealand and that's straight off the NZTA's statistics in terms of road deaths and serious accidents.