People of all ages turned out in the masses this afternoon to protest the removal of the Bayfair underpass.

The protest, called "Hands Off Our Underpass", took place between 1.30pm and 2.30pm at the current site of the Bayfair underpass.

Placards were hoisted high throughout the crowd, saying things like: "don't take our tunnel" and "fix it or Baylink fails".

The crowd marched through the underpass as they made their way to protest on the roadside. The car toots did not stop as the protesters lined the street.

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Bayfair Underpass Alliance member Heidi Hughes, who also represents transport advocacy group Greater Tauranga and is standing for an at-large seat in the Tauranga local body elections, called it a "last-ditch effort" to stop the underpass being demolished.

People gather for the protest aimed at saving the Bayfair underpass. Photo / George Novak
People gather for the protest aimed at saving the Bayfair underpass. Photo / George Novak

The underpass runs underneath Maunganui Rd at the intersection of State Highway 2 with Girven and Matapihi roads.

Last month the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) announced it would no longer build a new Maunganui Rd underpass as part of the Baypark to Bayfair project because of the $33m cost and extended timeframe.

Several guest speakers addressed the protesters, with loud claps, cheers and chants echoing throughout the streets.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless was at the front of the crowd with his bike by his side.

Eleven-year-old Esme Johanson addressed the crowd, saying the underpass provided a safe route to school.

She said she used the tunnel every day and without it, her safety and the safety of others was "at-risk".

The signs were nothing if not creative. Photo / George Novak
The signs were nothing if not creative. Photo / George Novak

Gareth Minchall and his 5-year-old son Owen rode to the protest on their tandem bike, with Gareth saying he just wanted the NZTA to think of a better design.

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Elderly couple Janette and Mike Anderson arrived on their mobility scooters. Both used the underpass regularly.

Mike said the removal would be terrible for residents of a nearby retirement village.

Janette said the underpass provided safe access to coffee shops and stores at the Bayfair Shopping Centre, which provided a social connection. She was terrified by the thought of crossing five lanes traffic if the underpass was removed.

"I wouldn't bother", says Janette.

The underpass was utilised heavily throughout the protest. Photo / George Novak
The underpass was utilised heavily throughout the protest. Photo / George Novak

Teenagers Maddie Ford and Ruby Bird had been used the underpass for years.

Ford said she has lived in the area her whole life and regularly used the underpass with friends and family growing up.

Placards were hoisted high at the protest. Photo / George Novak
Placards were hoisted high at the protest. Photo / George Novak

The existing underpass, popular with school students and commuters, would be demolished in October.

Brownless recently wrote a letter to the NZTA requesting an urgent "rethink" and that the situation had become "unacceptable".

Cars tooted as protesters took to the streets. Photo / George Novak
Cars tooted as protesters took to the streets. Photo / George Novak

In a previous article, NZTA was asked whether it would consider stalling the project and acting regional director Ross I'Anson said it was aware of disappointment and concerns regarding the underpass' removal. However, keeping it was no longer an affordable option.

The transport agency earlier indicated it would not attend today's protest.

Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark attended the protest and said Phil Twyford was aware of the situation.

She believed the protest would create waves and she was happy with the turnout.