If you feel like you're spending more of your life stuck in Tauranga's traffic, you could be right.

New data shows congestion on Bay of Plenty roads is worsening faster than in most other North Island regions - and Tauranga is leading the way, driven by a booming population.

The latest Infometrics quarterly economic report provided by Priority One showed traffic flows in Tauranga City increased 5.7 per cent in the year to September.

That was compared to a 4.6 per cent jump across Bay of Plenty and 3.9 per cent nationally.


Traffic flows in the North Island were growing most rapidly in the Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wellington and Northland.

The report stated a population increase and more activity at the Port of Tauranga had pushed up traffic volumes, causing congestion problems to surface.

Tauranga City Council's own data also showed congestion had worsened since last year, with the annual report showing an average delay of 28.35 seconds per kilometre.

The report showed it took 26.05 seconds longer to travel 18km of the city's key routes during peak hours compared to free flow traffic.

Injury and fatal crashes had also jumped 35.8 per cent in the 2017/2018 financial year.

 Tauranga's traffic flow.
Tauranga's traffic flow.

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the increase in traffic flows was as a result of the strong population and business growth in the last few years.

"Tauranga is one of New Zealand's main logistics hubs, which has seen a significant increase in traffic relating to moving goods around the city as well as the rest of the country," she said.

Sustainable Business Network Bay of Plenty regional manager Glen Crowther said the city was not well equipped to cater for increased traffic congestion.


Crowther said road safety and connectivity could be improved by investing more in a better public transport system.

"Along with shifting more regional and interregional freight to rail and coastal shipping, catching a bus needs to be as attractive as driving, in terms of being fast, reliable, and affordable," he said.

"That will only happen if councils invest more in the bus system."

This would also help relieve congestion for tradies and other road users, he said.

Crowther said congestion was worse at the usual bottlenecks on the highway network, Totara St, 15th Ave and near a number of local schools.

"The problem is these bottlenecks will keep getting worse until we invest in a multi-modal transport system."

The council's transport committee chairperson, Rick Curach, said an increase in economic activity and population growth was an obvious contributor to congestion.

"Any arterial route connecting suburban residential areas to commercial areas is chocking up, as all these people need to travel to and from places of employment, retail and recreation," he said.

Curach said ridesharing, staggered working start times, workplace travel plans that encouraged alternatives to driving, such as buses, cycling and walking could help to improve road safety and connectivity within the area.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns there was a congestion issue in Tauranga, however, he said a large majority of the port's growth had been absorbed by rail networks rather than roads.

Tauranga City Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said the average peak hour speed in Tauranga's most congested roads, including Totara St, Hewletts Rd, 15th Ave, Turret Rd and Cameron Rd, was 30km/h compared to 60km/h at night.

The slowest speed reading was on Totara St city-bound on a Tuesday morning with an average speed of 8km/h and the highest speed reading was recorded on Hewletts Rd city-bound on a Saturday afternoon at 74km/h.

Parkes said an increase in residential and commercial activity in Tauranga had resulted in traffic growth across the city.

"Tauranga is also the most car-reliant city in New Zealand," he said.

Parkes said the council was aiming to invest more into public transport, walking and cycle infrastructure.

Katherine Busbridge from V8 Trike Tours on the road. Photo / George Novak
Katherine Busbridge from V8 Trike Tours on the road. Photo / George Novak

V8 Trikes co-owner Katherine Busbridge said traffic had grown in the three years she had lived in the Mount due to an increase in tourism.

"There are so many more cruise ships here, which is fantastic," she said. "It is busy here all year round."

Busbridge had no qualms about increasing tourism, but said it was often hard to navigate around the town with more cars on the roads.

Having pedestrian crossings monitored by traffic lights or manned by people could help to ease traffic flow during peak hours in Mount Maunganui, she said, as the amount of people crossing was "causing gridlock" in the beachside suburb.

Busbridge, who owned the business with her husband, said the couple were lucky to have the option of travelling different routes to avoid the traffic.

"We try and avoid rush hour," she said.

Tauranga's top five most congested roads
- Totara St
- Hewletts Rd
- 15th Ave
- Turret Rd
- Cameron Rd

Tauranga's most congested roads based on public complaints
- Hewletts Rd
- Cameron Rd/Barkes Corner
- 15th Ave/Hairini Bridge
- Totara St
- Links Ave/Golf Rd

Source: Tauranga City Council