A Bay of Plenty mayor says greater progress on the proposed Katikati bypass would be a better solution for State Highway 2 than speed reviews.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council yesterday signed off on mayor Garry Webber's submission to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency regarding State Highway 2 in and around Katikati.
In the submission, Webber asked transport agency staff to reiterate to the organisation's board how improvements to the Mangatarata to Katikati section of SH2 would provide benefits expected from the Government's transportation policy statement "and to emphasise the need for a bypass for Katikati".
"The Katikati bypass will deliver much-needed safety, journey reliability and support for our growing communities. It enables the Katikati community to reclaim the town and enjoy a safer community. It builds resilience into the national transport network and it enables more efficient transport of goods to and from the Port of Tauranga and the Tauranga City generally," the submission said.
An estimated 15,000 vehicles travel through the town each day.
Webber also expressed support for roading improvements already happening on SH2 but said, "further intersection works, roundabouts and centre median barriers on the Waihī/Ōmokoroa section are needed".
"Improvements to the urban section of SH2 through Katikati and a bypass for Katikati should be progressed with haste."
There have been 565 crashes on the stretch of SH2 between Old Tauranga and Tetley Rds between 2000 and 2020 - not including local roads intersecting with the highway. Of these crashes, nine were fatal and 49 serious, he said in the submission.
The submission was Webber's response to the transport agency's review of speed limits on SH2 from Mangatarata to Katikati. While supportive of reducing harm on the highway, Webber said a speed review was just part of the solution and was no replacement for continued investment in local safety improvements and a bypass for Katikati.
After the meeting councillor James Denyer told the Bay of Plenty Times the community was desperate to have the bypass. They had been waiting decades, he said.
"There's a sort of resignation that it's not going to happen in the next few years but there's determination that at some point, as soon as we can, something should happen."
The Katikati community first called for a bypass in 1923. In recent years, three petitions attracted more than 20,000 signatures, and three times, bypass plans were approved only to later be cancelled or delayed.
Denyer, who represents the Katikati-Waihi Beach ward, said the submission helped keep pressure on.
"It is something we still want to happen. We are still fighting for it. It has not gone away."
Asked what kind of frustration he felt at battling for such a long-fought prospect, Denyer replied, "there are others who have been fighting for longer".
"It always feels like the [rules change. It gets close then certain rules change. There have been a couple of times it has been about to happen, then it doesn't. That is frustrating."
In May 2020, the council applied for $120 million for 15 projects through the Government's Crown Infrastructure Partners Economic Stimulus Process. This included the Katikati bypass but this was not successful.
In 2019, the transport agency said it would not consider building the bypass until 2028.
Transport agency director of regional relationships David Speirs said the Katikati community had made the case for a bypass clear but when considered against national priorities "and considering the forecast impact of the Waikato Expressway" the bypass did not meet the threshold for funding in the agency's 10-year plan.
"When the Waikato Expressway is completed, Waka Kotahi expects this to be used as the preferred route when travelling between Auckland and Tauranga. While there will be peak travel during holiday periods experienced in Katikati, the day-to-day traffic for inter-regional journeys is expected to lessen."
Speirs said the agency would continue to work with the council and others "to help build a vision for the future of the Katikati township". This was expected to improve the safety and movement of people in the area and make the town more of a place to stop and visit.