Katikati residents may have to shout louder if they want to be heard since the town's long-awaited bypass plans have been put on the backburner — again.
The Katikati bypass was one of two projects Western Bay of Plenty District Council wanted to make clear were high on the list when it made applications for 15 shovel-ready projects through the Government's Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) economic stimulus process.
Fourteen were successful, for now. They include a cycleway from Ōmokoroa to Katikati and Waihī Beach, plus Ōmokoroa road safety upgrades and urbanisation, plus wastewater improvements.
Seven will now be referred to the Government and another seven to the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) for decision-making. The latter were considered as having the potential to fit within the scope of the Provincial Growth Fund.
Campaigners who have fought for the $100 million bypass are devastated.
"I am totally, totally disappointed," said town promotions manager Jacqui Knight.
"If Katikati continues to have this traffic through its Main Street we will completely die as a retail town — there will be no boutique arty village, there will just be a service town with no need to stop or visit.
"Decision-makers seem to have lost sight of the big picture."
Knight said her family moved to Katikati in the late 1970s and she has watched the highs and lows of the retail space over many years.
"In the early 2000s we had shops that actually drew people to Katikati from outside the region. However. with the volume of traffic now. it's just not attractive to the retail experience."
Katikati Community Board chairman Ben Warren is also very disappointed.
"Our views of enhancing our town and protecting the welfare and safety of our local citizens are obviously at odds with the NZ Transport Agency and the Government's views that the thoroughfare for State Highway 2 traffic is more important."
An estimated 15,000 vehicles travel through the town each day.
"It is apparent that some form of high level of action needs to occur that will draw national attention to our situation."
Warren said he shuddered to think what the congestion on this road would be like in 2028.
He said the community board would still look to develop a town and community plan with the view of a bypass as being essential.
"This long, long fight looks like it will continue for some time."
Former community board chair and Katikati Taiao chair Jenny Hobbs said she is gutted.
"I have no idea why NZTA and the Labour-led coalition government will not fund the bypass.
"I held high hopes the bypass would be funded through the post Covid-19 economic stimulus package of 'shovel-ready' projects, especially given its high priority on the Regional Land Transport Plan."
She said conversations with local MPs had indicated Transport Minister Phil Twyford had the Katikati Bypass on his radar and fully understood the importance of delivering this project for Katikati people.
"I hoped this infrastructure package would be a way the Government could deliver the bypass, given how difficult funding it from the over-subscribed Land Transport Fund seems to be."
"Residents have been asking for an alternative route around Katikati since 1923 and, when it was almost a reality three decades ago, sadly two local businessmen sabotaged the opportunity with a successful appeal that overturned the decision.
"Now it seems gaining back the political will to make the Katikati bypass a reality is an impossibility."
When working on the applications in April, mayor Garry Webber said the reason the council applied for funding from the CIP meant it would not impact on ratepayers and the projects could start straight away.
"The designation for the Katikati bypass is there already and council has done the analysis. We've put that information together and could start the geotech work tomorrow."
The bypass project, had it been funded, would have provided local employment.
Hobbs said the council has not completed/released its feasibility study into whether the bypass could be built as a local road, so she looks forward to hearing those findings.