Tauranga City Council has apologised to residents affected by a short-notice closure of a residential street, which has been transformed into a bus lane.
Transport manager Martin Parkes faced about 100 residents demanding answers at a meeting at Hairini Marae on Thursday night.
Complaints centred on a lack of consultation and communication about how the Hairini St bus lane was introduced, with residents' now limited access to the street a common concern.
Hairini St used to be the main thoroughfare for Welcome Bay, Ōhauiti and Hairini traffic accessing Turret Rd to get to Tauranga city.
When the bus lane was created at one end of Hairini St days after the Maungatapu Underpass opened earlier this month, traffic was forced to use either the new underpass or the Maungatapu roundabout instead.
There was plenty of passion and frustration aired during the hui, which lasted almost two hours.
A resident said: "If you're going to divert us, what's the plan? You've put us all back into a more dangerous position. Alleviated one area, but made another area more dangerous."
Parkes apologised for the way the changes were made.
He admitted to the Bay of Plenty Times after the meeting that a community backlash was expected.
"As I said, we put that [bus lane] in very quickly. Normally we'd go through quite a lengthy consultation process. But there was an opportunity that came up and in the transport world, when these opportunities come up; sometimes you've got to take them. Otherwise, they're lost forever."
Residents also questioned the low use of the new bus lane and why it had been implemented so early. Parkes said more buses would be using it in time.
He said there were three main issues raised during the meeting and he welcomed the lively discussion and feedback.
One issue was the bus lane and the number of buses using it, one was the closure of Hairini St and the third was safety on State Highway 29 between the two roundabouts.
Tamahika St resident and Ngāi Te Ahi representative Irene Walker said the hapū had been working closely with the NZ Transport Agency on the construction of the underpass.
However, she said the closure of Hairini St and the introduction of a bus lane were not part of the plan and were met with surprise and anger.
Walker said it did not help the integrity of the relationship with the transport agency and the council, despite the many years of engagement.
Walker said one of the most important things for Ngāi Te Ahi in that partnership was the protection of its urupā (cemetery), which was caught in the middle.
"Some of that was moving the traffic away from the urupā, from the roundabouts and directing it to the underpass ..."
Closing Hairini St had only exacerbated the problem and caused more anxiety among the hapū, she said. The urupā incentive had been forgotten.
Transport agency project manager John McCarthy was also at the meeting and some of his answers were met with shouting from the crowd.
At one point McCarthy said "If you don't like it, move out of Tauranga".
The reaction in the room was outrage.
"We were here before you," one man shouted.
After the meeting, McCarthy acknowledged it was "a flippant comment".
"I guess the issue is that we've got a State Highway that is running through effectively a residential area."
He said Ōhauiti Rd, State Highway 29, Hairini and Maungatapu were part of a complex piece of roading infrastructure.
McCarthy said the agency and councils worked closely together but were driven by different demands and requirements.
They were trying to balance the safety and efficiency demands of the Stage Highway network with those of the local community, he said.
"It is change, but then change is what is required across our network to change the overall philosophy that we've had – which is people can drive one person, one car."
Both Parkes and McCarthy said the new Government was driving that behavioural change.
McCarthy said it was also important to remember the Hairini issues were happening during a one-hour peak period, and for 23 hours a day the network operated effectively.