A small Horowhenua community is bracing for a financial wallop it didn't see coming.
Shannon businesses owners are furious at a lack of consultation from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority around planned roadworks that could send thousands of potential customers in a different direction each day.
Earlier this week Waka Kotahi closed a section of State Highway 57 between Kimberley Rd and Tararua Rd to northbound traffic, reducing that section of road to one lane for southbound vehicles only, as it starts work on safety improvements.
The work includes road widening, sections of side barrier and painted wide centrelines on SH57 between the intersection with State Highway 1 (SH1) at Kimberley Rd, all the way to Heatherlea East Rd.
For the next six months sections of the road would be closed, although diverting northbound traffic from the main highway route to Shannon was already having an impact on businesses there.
Shannon Four Square owner Corey Macmillan said, like all business owners in town, he only heard about the closure on December 16 - a week before Christmas.
McMillan was gobsmacked the detours were a fait accompli and went ahead regardless earlier this week, in spite of immediate concern from the wider Shannon community.
To add insult to injury, Waka Kotahi had planned a meeting with the Shannon community later today - days after the diversion was already in place.
McMillan said it gave no opportunity for meaningful dialogue with Waka Kotahi before the diversion, or a chance to properly plan for what had the potential to severely impact turnover. It gave no time to implement a business plan to offset losses.
"There has been zero consultation. If someone had come and talked to us we might have been able to come up with a solution," he said.
Macmillan, who employs 16 staff, said he feared he could be forced to lay off valued staff members, and the diversion was putting pressure on other Shannon businesses.
Already this week the till was down 20 per cent, while he had heard of other businesses whose profits had more than halved already.
"We'll have to take it day by day and week by week. They are saying six months, but the reality is that it could be much longer, too," he said.
Andrea Rider operates a coffee cart in Shannon and estimates that 80 per cent of her business was from customers travelling north between 5am and 9am on weekdays.
She also feared losing staff if thousands of daily customers used alternate roads and bypassed Shannon. Already in the first week turnover was down markedly.
"It's pretty quiet. Everything south is dead," she said.
"It will be huge. Our trade was down after lockdown because people weren't travelling, and now this?"
Shannon service station owner Kirit Patel said he attended a meeting with Macmillan, Rider and other Shannon business owners that had only just learned of the diversion before Christmas.
He too was worried about the effect the diversion would have on his business.
"A lot of people are worried," he said.
Horowhenua District councillor Sam Jenning said in a short time a petition of 2700 signatures was gathered to be presented to Waka Kotahi this week, calling for works to be halted.
Jennings was calling for works to be delayed until the end of 2022 to allow enough time for businesses to better prepare for the financial impacts the works might have, and to work through alternatives.
He said he feared accidents from people "rat-running" by using connecting roads like Heathelea East Rd and Koputaroa Rd to link from State Highway 1 back to State Highway 57.
Those roads were not fit for purpose. There were uncontrolled rail crossings, and a majority of motorists would be unfamiliar with those roads, he said.
"There are some people saying suck it up. But this is real people. This is lives and livelihoods," he said.
"This is a community where people can't afford to lose their jobs."
Horowhenua District councillor Robert Ketu said the decision could have massive negative impact on a small community like Shannon.
"What I am hearing from people in the business community is a 50-70 per cent loss of income. People could lose their jobs," he said.
"How can that be good for our community? They didn't come and talk with us. There are some people that are really upset."
Waka Kotahi director of regional relationships Linda Stewart said she was aware of Cr Jennings' petition, but had not yet received it.
"We have been in discussions with Horowhenua District Council about the SH57 safety improvements project, both during the development of our plans for managing traffic throughout the works and since these plans were finalised," she said.
"We will be meeting with the mayor again in the coming days, as well as with Shannon businesses to further discuss their concerns.
"The improvements we are making to SH57 will significantly improve safety on this important route. Disruption and changes to traffic are inevitable while this important work is under way, but we have endeavoured to minimise this as much as possible without compromising the safety of road users and road workers.
"We are aware that there is likely to be an impact on locals and businesses in Levin and Shannon, which is why we have worked with the local council throughout the development of these plans and consulted with residents and stakeholders ahead of finalising our traffic management plans.
"We understand this detour is inconvenient, but after investigating several options for managing traffic during these works, we've concluded the single-lane detour has the least impact on all road users and is the safest, most efficient way to complete the work.
"When we modelled the traffic impact of stop/go arrangements, we determined that at peak times, road users could expect delays of up to 45 minutes if stop/go was implemented.
"We decided this level of disruption to people's journeys too high, and so daytime closures were discounted.
"We also considered stop/go under night works, however given the extent of works and the fact that it is necessarily noisy due to construction operations, this was considered to be unacceptable from a safety and wellbeing perspective for both residents and the road workers who would be operating at night for an extended period of time," she said.
"The start of the works was deferred until after the Christmas and New Year break, partly due to the impact on traffic movements along SH57, and is underway from this week.
"Most importantly, we want motorists to travel through our worksite safely and our road workers to have a safe workplace."