The Bay of Plenty Times yesterday launched Gridlock – Tauranga's No. 1 issue, a series examining what's gone wrong, the chokepoints and how bad they have become and the impact on people, businesses and the wider city.

But what does the head of Tauranga's economic development agency, Priority One, think about it? In a special guest editorial, Nigel Tutt gives his opinion on why the problem has happened, and what needs to be done to help solve it.


Tauranga is a great city and a hugely popular place. While we have a lot to be positive about and a bright future ahead, transport congestion is cause for real concern.


We face a dire situation; our key roads are overloaded, our public transport system is misfiring and unbelievably we have no cohesive plan to alleviate the congestion.

It'll get worse in the short term too. Traffic flows have been increasing by around 7 per cent per year and we expect them to keep doing so, with bottlenecks becoming more pronounced.

It certainly doesn't help that we are the worst city in New Zealand at travelling via single occupancy vehicles.

The transport situation has slowed down the development of residential housing, it's costing businesses money, and it's impacting our future sustainability.

It also frustrates those who live in this great place – we're not used to being held up in traffic, especially when some of the solutions seem obvious.

Morning traffic heading into central Tauranga and the CBD, from State Highway 29A towards Turret Rd. Photo / George Novak
Morning traffic heading into central Tauranga and the CBD, from State Highway 29A towards Turret Rd. Photo / George Novak

You might ask how we've managed to get ourselves into this situation. It's a combination of several factors: our population and economic growth are the highest in New Zealand and we have a tough physical layout to deal with.

With the high population growth we knew was coming, we needed to be able to respond quickly.

However, local authority planning has been slow, disparate and largely ineffective, with individual projects ruling over a much wider strategy.

Central government hasn't come to the party much either and/or have priorities elsewhere. The current situation is very frustrating and it's hard not to feel that we've been let down, but we also must turn our attention to the future.

So how do we get out of this?

There are a couple of things that will help and will need all of us to get behind.

Firstly, the three local councils, SmartGrowth and NZ Transport Agency are working on a plan called the Urban Form and Transport Initiative (or UFTI).

The UFTI will essentially develop a plan for investment that is based around the way we'll grow and it'll cover short term urgent fixes as well as multi-decade planning.

We must change the way we travel, writes Priority One's Nigel Tutt. Photo / George Novak
We must change the way we travel, writes Priority One's Nigel Tutt. Photo / George Novak

We'd expect that this will come up with an investment plan for the area which will represent our best (and probably only) shot and getting funding for the next few years.

Secondly, we must change the way we travel. That means changing our reliance on cars and taking a different approach to getting around; it's not just about building more roads.

Change might mean that we take public transport more often, bike or e-scooter or share a ride to work or school, or adopt more flexible working hours, if possible. If we can even change one journey a week, we'll make a difference.

For Priority One's part, we'll be asking the business community to help lead this change. We expect our local councils, in particular, to invest in and support these changes – and we should all hold them to account on actions in this regard.

It's vital that we act decisively here. We're way behind and fixing this will require some hard decisions.

Change will be uncomfortable, but the consequences of doing nothing are much worse. It will likely cost more; it will mean we must find ways to change our transport habits, it will mean that we need to adopt innovative solutions.

Our region needs a big effort here – let's all step up.

Read here to discover why a developer believes traffic congestion could have a major impact on housing.
Read here to find out what impact traffic congestion is having on the Bay's economy.
Tomorrow, we reveal the intersections Tauranga motorists love to hate.