Hairini residents continue to battle local transport officials over the decision to temporarily turn the Hairini St slipway on to Turret Rd into a bus-only lane.

Meanwhile, the bus lane has been credited for a recent increase in bus usage on the two routes that use it.

This week Hairini St resident Bruce Cronin plead his case for reopening the road to Tauranga City Council's transport committee, telling councillors the change was "unnecessary, disruptive and enormously frustrating".

It defeated the purpose of the underpass - separating SH29A and local traffic - by forcing Hairini residents to go via the highway - negotiating a give way, two roundabouts and two sets of lights - just to get back on to a local road.


Cronin said he remained unconvinced by any of the explanations the council had given him of the legality of the initial closure, which was retrospectively approved by elected members a month after it happened - a move supported by the NZ Transport Agency and local police.

Cronin called for the road to be reopened to all traffic, saying he believed the three traffic streams from SH29A, Welcome Bay and Hairini could merge safely.

If that was not possible, he said the council should move quickly to find a way to let Hairini residents (but not through traffic) use the lane or to restrict the 'bus only' rule to peak hours.

Irene Walker of Ngai Te Ahi also addressed the committee with concern from the hapu about how the closure happened without consultation and requesting an exemption to the 'bus only' rule for people connected to the Hairini Marae as well as other residents.

Hinenui Cooper also spoke to raise concerns about the failure to reinstate access to a whitebaiting stand in the Kaitemako River that her mother had been using for decades.

Senior council staff defended the road closure, saying it was done legally and necessarily quickly due to unforeseen safety concerns.

Infrastructure manager Christine Jones said the council was committed to working with the marae on the issues.

Transportation manager Martin Parkes said the council had been working with the transport agency over the last few months to gather better data about the traffic in the area.

That data would be fed into an improved traffic computer model.

"The model will allow us to run scenarios of road layouts to determine the best and safest options for the area."

Once they were confident of the options, they would discuss them with the community.

He did not know how long that work would take.

He said no fines had been issued for vehicles using the bus lane, only warnings.

Parkes said the council had just received a report from an independent expert contracted to assess the safety issues with the cycle lanes in the area.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council senior transport planner Joe Metcalfe said he compared statistics from May and August for the two bus routes that used the Hairini slipway lane: route 40 from Welcome Bay and route 36 from Papamoa.

Both had a lift in patronage over 30 per cent and ran much closer to on time between Welcome Bay and 15th Ave, he said.