Emergency services are having to use back roads to get to call-outs in time as Tauranga's traffic congestion worsens.
Data released by Infometrics shows traffic flow into and around the city has grown by 5.2 per cent over the past year.
The statistics came three months after the Bay of Plenty Times reported concerns from Katikati, Ōmokoroa and Waihī volunteer fire brigades about not being able to get to emergencies quickly due to traffic buildup on State Highway 2.
This week, the Bay of Plenty Times revealed there are 767,000 more vehicle movements through 10 of Tauranga's busiest intersections weekly, compared with six years ago – a rise of 37.54 per cent between 2013 and 2019.
Now, first responders in the Western Bay are speaking out, saying congestion is slowing them down in emergencies.
Fire and Emergency NZ Bay of Plenty Coast area commander Peter Clark said increased traffic on Tauranga's roads was affecting their ability to get to emergencies quickly.
"We have problems all over town, and it's not just at rush-hour times. We've noticed a marked difference in the last four to five years. As we all know, our roading layouts are not conducive to the traffic we have.
"We have difficulty just getting about."
Clark said sometimes it was impossible for traffic to pull to the side of the road, "especially with all of the roadworks going on, the lanes get condensed".
Clark described the roadworks as a "necessary evil" which needed to happen to help with the city's infrastructure.
Fire crews were resorting to using back streets to get to where they needed to go.
"Our drivers do that ... if they are unable to [respond quickly on the usual routes]."
We have difficulty just getting about.
Senior Sergeant Carl Purcell said police had noticed traffic backing up more, particularly in Greerton.
"It has affected the ability for police vehicles in emergency situations [to respond quickly] due to the way the road is formed as there is little or no room to pass. However, this is only 100 metres or so each way."
Purcell said traffic congestion was a concern but overall traffic in the Western Bay was "reasonably good".
St John ambulance team leader Ross Clarke said traffic had increased throughout the region but it was not "creating any headaches" for his crews.
An emergency service worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when they were called to emergencies in a certain direction, they tried thinking of other ways to go to try to avoid the traffic.
Another worker, also speaking anonymously, said they sometimes had to call on other units from elsewhere in the city to respond to emergencies because they could not get there quickly while stuck in traffic.
Tomorrow, we investigate alternative transport in Tauranga.