A Kerikeri community group is calling on the council to quit kicking the can down the road and build a CBD bypass before the centre is completely gridlocked.
Rod Brown, of Vision Kerikeri, said a bypass would not reduce the number of cars in the rapidly growing town — but it would divert most of them off the main street, allowing people to reclaim the traffic-clogged town centre.
The council already owned most of the properties along the bypass route so all that was needed was funding — and the will — to make it happen.
Many people driving through the town centre weren't trying to visit the CBD, they just wanted to get to the other side, Brown said.
The bypass would divert cars down Butler Rd at the Countdown roundabout. A new section of road would then cut across council land to Homestead Rd, before connecting with Clark Rd and returning to Kerikeri Rd at the New World roundabout.
The bypass would be two-way, unlike the present one-way system, which forced all west-bound traffic down the main street.
The CBD bypass was first mooted in 1996.
Since then traffic volumes had grown rapidly with 11,000 vehicles now passing through the Kerikeri Rd-Hobson Ave intersection daily.
Brown said a two-way bypass wouldn't just improve traffic flow — it was ''an essential precursor'' to a pedestrian-friendly main street plus enhanced social connectivity and wellbeing.
''It will free up the town for people, not traffic.''
The council's draft long-term plan 2021-31 — which sets out what the council will spend money on for the next 10 years — left out the bypass entirely, prompting Vision Kerikeri to dedicate its entire oral submission to the subject.
However, when council staff summarised public feedback for councillors to consider, they made no mention of any bypass submissions.
That spurred Brown to fire off a few strongly worded emails, saying it did little to inspire confidence in the consultation process.
At the next meeting councillor Rachel Smith put up a motion calling on staff to prepare a report on bypass options for the infrastructure committee by the end of September. She then wanted a report within three years on how the bypass could be built by 2031, the term of the current LTP.
It was passed with just one vote against.
''Planning for this bypass started when I was a teenager. My daughter is now a teenager — it's become an intergenerational thing. It needs to be kickstarted.''
Deputy Mayor Ann Court said the council had been buying up properties along the route since 2007 and now owned most of them.
However, the council didn't have an exact route, working drawings or consents, all of which were needed to get a 69 per cent subsidy from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
The total cost of the project was estimated to be $20 million, which would be ''completely unaffordable'' if ratepayers had to pick up the full tab.
Waka Kotahi had signalled it would be unlikely to subsidise the bypass because it had worse cases of congestion to solve elsewhere in the country.
However, Court was confident the agency would help pay for $1.3m in design work and traffic studies applied for in the Northland Regional Land Transport Plan.
The report being prepared for councillors would also examine whether the bypass was still the best option for Kerikeri, given that the plan was now more than 20 years old.
''I'd love to say we're starting tomorrow, but realistically nothing will happen within a minimum of three years.''