Residents along SH57 and businesses and residents in Shannon who travel to Levin each day are fuming at what they perceive is the "sudden" plan by NZTA Waka Kotahi to close the northbound lane the entire length of this road for six months, so safety upgrades can be installed.
The plans became public knowledge only last week and no one knew anything about it.
An NZTA press release claiming it had consulted has been met with astonishment by many, including district councillor Sam Jennings, who has demanded a meeting with Waka Kotahi about the issue.
From January 9, the entire northbound lane will be closed, forcing any traffic going north to travel via Levin and Foxton on SH1.
Councillor Sam Jennings has started a petition demanding NZTA Waka Kotahi reconsider its plan, and it had collected 1000 signatures within 36 hours, he said. "There is already considerable frustration at the slow progress on the Queen St roundabout," Jennings said.
Waka Kotahi said it worked closely with Horowhenua District Council on the SH57 safety improvements and consulted the community about its plans in July, August and December.
"We conducted early consultation with residents and businesses in this area that may be affected by the work between July and September 2021.
"Meetings took place with Muaūpoko and Raukawa hapū representatives and people living in retirement at Speldhurst Country Estate and Horowhenua Masonic Village in September and October 2021.
"Waka Kotahi also consulted with district emergency services, freight industry and NZ Automobile Association representatives in June, August and November 2021. Residents were notified of our roadworks on 24 November and 17 December 2021."
Jennings said he had tried to find out which council staff had been consulted, to no avail, and those he had spoken to said they were not impressed with the statement that they had been consulted. Elected members were left in the dark the whole way, until they received a brochure from NZTA late last week in their letterboxes, said Jennings.
"Alongside the safety infrastructure improvements, we are also reviewing the current speed limits on SH57 between Levin and Shannon to make sure they are safe and appropriate. Following an initial technical assessment of the road, community input was sought in March 2020," Waka Kotahi said in a press release.
"A formal proposal with specific speeds was put to the community for consultation, which closed on 27 September 2021. We are now working through the process of making a final decision on speeds for this stretch of road.
"Subject to funding, next year we expect to complete further improvements including a new roundabout at the SH1/SH57 intersection, median barriers and turnaround points between Ōtaki and Manakau."
These safety improvements will include road widening, sections of side barrier and painted wide centrelines on SH57 between the intersection with State Highway 1 and Heatherlea East Rd.
Construction of the safety improvements will start on Sunday, January 9, and is expected to be completed in mid-2022, depending on weather. Hours of work will be 7am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.
The northbound lane on SH57 will be closed in stages between SH1 and Heatherlea East Rd during this time. This means people travelling north to Palmerston North will need to take a detour on SH1 to Himatangi, Rangiotu Rd and SH56.
The southbound lane on SH57 will remain open under speed restrictions of 30-50km/h, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The estimated cost for these safety improvements on SH57 is $15 million.
"We worked closely with the local council on the detour plan and have opted for a single- lane detour that will allow us to complete the work in the shortest time, maintains resident access and creates a safe worksite," Ōtaki to North of Levin Project director Lonnie Dalzell said.
"We know that this will still create some disruption and frustration for motorists at times, but we ask that people please be patient, follow the detour route, and take extra care near our worksites while this important safety work is under way."
Country Estate Speldhurst's Residents Association spokesman Neville Turnbull said they have been in conversations with NZTA for at least three years – specifically in regards to issues that affect the welfare of the residents of Speldhurst.
The main issue was the 100km/h speed limit with vehicles coming down Kimberley Rd often not obeying the speed limits and not being aware of the age of the residents coming out of Speldhurst in terms of cognitive road skills, he said.
The association has also worked with Horowhenua Road Safety group, police, other senior groups, Horizons and HDC.
During this time the association has presented a petition with 300 signatures, asking to reduce the Kimberly Rd speed to 70km/h.
In terms of the current roadwork plans – NZTA has held three open-to-public meetings at Speldhurst over the past two years, he said.
There was talk at one stage of a roundabout being built at the SH1 end of Kimberley Rd as part of the roadworks, but Neville understands that is now not happening.
As far as Turnbull is aware, the roadworks were supposed to start in September-October and during the public meetings the association had again asked for a reduced speed limit at the end of the construction period, as well as safety pegs in the middle of the road to be included.
Garden of York staff member Julia Pope, who has worked there for six years, said NZTA dropped off leaflets in late November/early December but there was no indication of what the roadworks actually meant in terms of road closure.
Owner Chung Soo has had no real contact either. He said his daughter had recently advised him what was happening - "probably will affect business but can't do anything about it".
Ultimate Eggs owner Nick Bennick said, "The fact is that all east-west connections are all still open, so I don't think it will impact us too much. It will create nuisance having to detour back to SH1 into Levin then Roslyn Rd then Waihou Rd but this is only minor really.
"Do think it will impact our retail shop sales. How much ... only time will tell. What concerns me more is once again the total lack of engagement by roading authority."
Sam Jennings said road widening, to enable installation of side barriers, and painting of wide centrelines do not justify closing the northbound lane for six months. "Elsewhere they have done this with shorter stop-start sections."
He is calling for a meeting with businesses in Shannon that also feel ill-informed. Closure will also upstage mail delivery as well as school bus routes. Everyone will need to travel back to Shannon from Levin via Foxton. That is more than double the distance and double the time, than travelling along SH57.
His petition can be found here: