The time lag between urban development and planned upgrades of State Highway 2 has emerged as a huge source of frustration for Omokoroa and Katikati residents.
Anger at the priorities listed in the draft Regional Land Transport Plan surfaced at the first day of public hearings yesterday on the plan.
Western Bay District councillor David Marshall said the highway's low two-star rating from Waihi to Tauranga had resulted in an unacceptably high mortality and accident toll.
He said Omokoroa's growth was placing increasing strain on the road, especially on safe access from the peninsula to SH2.
''This development is not a surprise, it has been planned for years. Yet no sense of urgency appears to have been communicated by the region to government and the New Zealand Transport Agency to achieve a timely upgrade of this section of SH2.''
Marshall was speaking to his submission on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Land Transport Plan. Once finalised, the plan will be used by the agency to decide its funding priorities for New Zealand.
He wants the upgrade of SH2 from Omokoroa to Te Puna lifted from 11th to the top spot in the plan, driven by Omokoroa's rapid growth and the high traffic volumes and deaths on this section of road.
Marshall said the sixth-ranked safety improvements from Waihi to Omokoroa should at least be the third priority.
He was pleased the agency was making some temporary safety improvements but said the highway needed to be urgently upgraded to a three-star rating.
A common theme among submitters yesterday was the broken promises on the construction of the Katikati bypass. Marshall wanted the priority for the bypass increased from 15th to at least 10th.
Omokoroa Community Board chairman Murray Grainger said a spate of serious crashes and uncertainty over the new Government's plan for the road had locals renewing calls for major improvements. A Facebook group started on March 14 had grown to 1700 members.
''I have searched the internet but cannot find any mention of a community support group lobbying for the Tauriko West project to remain in the priority number one position,'' he said.
''This begs the question, are the committee members working on behalf of the voters who elected them or on someone else's behalf.''
Sam Dunlop said the Katikati bypass had three times been on the verge of construction, the last time in 2004 when the mayor went to Wellington to sign up the bypass only to come back devastated because Transit New Zealand had been restructured.
He said it now took him two hours in the summer to drive to Tauranga from the Kauri Point turnoff north of Katikati.
Dunlop said the traffic volumes through Katikati were considerably more than Wellington's $1 billion Transmission Gully project.
Katikati resident John Logan said he was sure he spoke for many people who felt they were the victims of contempt and disinterest. The bypass was languishing at 15th while a cycleway (implementing Tauranga's cycle action plan) was at fourth.
At the current rate of increase in traffic, Katikati would become unliveable long before the indicated finishing date for the bypass of 2030.
''It's not uncommon to see diesel trucks nose-to-tail, held up on either side of the traffic lights, belching exhaust fumes into the Katikati main streets. This presents a serious health problem.''
Two further days of hearings were scheduled for the panel considering the submissions.