NZ Transport Agency representatives endured the waves of outrage radiating from more than 100 residents at a public meeting on the controversial future of the Bayfair underpass tonight.

It comes as public figures call for the entire Baypark to Bayfair Link project to be put on hold so a consensus can be reached on its future.

Meanwhile, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) says the current underpass could be closed by late October following confirmation on plans to build a new crossing near Concord Ave.

The public meeting was jointly called by the Tauranga City Council, the Sustainable Business Network and the Bayfair Underpass Alliance, with NZTA representatives in attendance.


NZTA chief adviser system design Kevin Reid and acting director of regional relationships Ross I'Anson appeared to struggle to combat the onslaught of comments and questions hurled at them by heated residents during the public questions segment of the meeting.

One resident pointed to the aims of the project, which had included improving safety and cycling and walking connections in the area.

"You've failed to do that," he told Reid and I'Anson.

Another resident urged the NZTA to "future proof" the area while another told the representatives they were not elderly nor did they live in the area.

One resident said if it cost $33 million to build then it should be done as the community needed it.

Reid said pausing the project would be "highly unusual".

He said it would also be very costly because the NZTA was still obliged to pay the contractor.

"You would be looking at the expense of millions of dollars."


I'Anson said the current underpass did not meet safety standards and could not be strengthened to suit.

He also pointed to the skyrocketing estimated cost of the underpass, along with the two extra years it would add to the project.

The initial costing showed it would cost $13m but this jumped to $33m according to the final design. This had been peer-reviewed and the second figure came back even higher than the first.

"These things always go up - they never go down."

Bayfair Underpass Alliance representative Philip Brown called for the project to be halted to allow for more planning and exploration of other options.

"No one has been run over by a car in the underpass," he said.

Greater Tauranga's Sue McArthur called for an "urgent" review of the underpass and said the project as proposed would not meet the community and city's transport needs, now or in the future.

She said the population increase due to the Te Tumu development would see the roads "clogged solid" and would push people to cycle, bus or rideshare.

Glen Crowther of the Sustainable Business Network also called for a halt on the project to allow for a local working group, consisting of representatives of the council, the NZTA, tangata whenua and the community, to come to a mutual decision.

Former Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said he supported the pause to "take a quiet moment to listen to the community, not just talk to them".

In July, the 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.

This triggered a mass outcry from local residents and the controversial move prompted the formation of the Bayfair Underpass Alliance protest group.

Last month, the Alliance led a protest, dubbed "Hands Off Our Underpass", which saw hundreds of people turn out to rally against the underpass' removal.

Earlier this month, Tauranga City Council and the NZTA confirmed it was investigating the viability of an overbridge to replace the underpass.