The opening of a new road in and out of Papamoa is a lifeline for residents battling chronic traffic.
As one of the fastest growing suburbs in the Bay of Plenty, Papamoa's main thoroughfares were struggling to cope. But the opening of the latest stage of Te Okuroa Drive project, between The Boulevard and Livingstone Drive, finally gives Papamoa East residents a second way out.
"The Te Okuroa Drive project has been a long time in the works," said Steve Morris, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa City Councillor.
"Back in 2014, the growth in Papamoa really justified bringing the project forward by nearly five years.
"We were looking at completion in 2023 but, because of the sheer number of people moving here for our lifestyle, we needed a second road out of Papamoa East.
"And Papamoa Beach Road residents have been enduring for a number of years now. Not just the added residential traffic but also the commercial and trades traffic building our new homes.
"This is going to provide a significant relief to Papamoa Beach Road residents in particular."
During peak rush hour, traffic can be backed up for kilometres from Parton Road to the Four Square at Golden Sands.
"It was a relatively significant decision of the council in 2014. We made the decision back then at a time when it was not very popular to add debt onto Tauranga's balance sheet and so this project is a $30 million project," Morris said.
"Many Tauranga residents might not know but Papamoa Beach Road is really a rural road and it carries, at times, traffic which is similar to Chapel Street or Fraser Street in Tauranga. So it's vital that we've got the second link in.
"Papamoa is the largest suburb in the city by far and also the largest rating base as a suburb in Tauranga. It really deserves this piece of infrastructure."
Local residents have welcomed the opening of the new road.
Jo De Bono said her neighbourood had been quieter before the opening.
"The noise and the traffic is busier but for my husband getting into work in the CBD of Tauranga, it's a lot quicker. And we like to think when the Boulevard opens that the traffic will then divert both ways going through.
"The children in the area are used to playing [on the road] so I do worry a little bit about that, particularly the younger children racing round and some of the cars aren't doing 50kmh past us."
Another local, Simon Phillips said there had been a rush to use the new thoroughfare but that should calm down.
"At the moment the traffic's pretty heavy as everyone gets used to it, but we'll see how it all ends up once the other connection roads get finished. It should be a lot better, I guess."
Coucillor Morris said the road opening was just the start for Te Okuroa Drive.
"In the next couple of years we're going to be extending it to Te Tumu which is the large area set aside for residential development from the end of Papamoa all the way to the Kaituna River, and this road within a few years is going to connect up to the Papamoa East interchange."
Funded by the Tauranga City Council and the NZTA, construction of the next $30 million plus interchange was due to begin in 2021.
"That interchange is significant because no longer will Papamoa East residents have to go down to Domain Road to get onto State Highway 2 – they'll be able to get onto it right here. That will mean there are, in effect, three ways out of Papamoa East.
"From Papamoa East to Rotorua you could be looking at about 35 minutes."