Locals are welcoming news that roundabouts will be built at two notorious Northland intersections, saying they can't come soon enough.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced yesterday the region would get a $21.5 million share of the Government's latest infrastructure spend-up.
The cash will pay for a roundabout where State Highway 10 and SH11 meet at Puketona Junction, between Kerikeri and Paihia ($15m); a roundabout at the intersection of SH1 and SH11 in Kawakawa ($6m); and improvements to the SH12-Rawene Rd intersection in South Hokianga ($500,000).
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Puketona Junction is a notorious black spot which was listed six years ago among New Zealand's 100 most dangerous intersections.
A roundabout has been planned for more than a decade — designs were drawn up and land was bought in 2009 — but was put on the back-burner as other projects were bumped up the priority list.
In Kawakawa the problem is not just danger but also congestion with summer traffic sometimes backing up as far as Moerewa's Turntable Hill, a distance of about 7km.
Junction Cafe owner Gavin Norman has a front-row view of the accidents at Puketona Junction and is ''absolutely in favour'' of a roundabout.
''It's well overdue,'' he said.
A common accident he saw was when campervans heading north on SH10 tried to turn right towards Paihia but ended up on the wrong side of the road.
Other crashes occurred when drivers were caught out while turning right out of SH11 because their view of southbound traffic on SH10 was blocked by vehicles turning left, resulting in a T-bone crash.
Even a NZ Transport Agency official who stopped for coffee one day was shocked by what he saw, Norman said.
The slip lanes likely to accompany a roundabout would take pressure off the intersection and improve access to his business, but his main concern was safety.
''It's diabolical. The sooner they build it the better.''
Across the road Ed Lyman, who has owned Bay of Islands Country Lodge since 2011, said NZTA had bought land for a roundabout from the previous owner.
He used to ring NZTA regularly for updates but had almost given up hope.
''I'm fully in favour of the roundabout, purely for safety reasons. It'll also be good to slow down traffic and reduce noise.''
Lyman was surprised, however, by the ''ridiculous'' $15m price tag, especially because the land had been bought already.
Puketona resident Anika Whapshott said she could hear the crashes from her deck, 600m away, and had dodged a couple of head-on collisions with cars on the wrong side of the road after turning at the junction.
Crashes had decreased after arrows were painted on the road but she still wanted to see the roundabout built as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Kawakawa Business Association chairman Malcolm Francis has been lobbying tirelessly for a roundabout at the SH1/SH11 intersection for the past four years.
The change of give-way rules in 2012 had turned the gateway to the Bay of Islands into a major congestion point, he said.
''The worst was on an Easter break when the queue was all the way through Kawakawa to Turntable Hill at the other end of Moerewa, and halfway down the straight to Pakaraka.''
Francis wanted work to start as soon as possible so the money couldn't be reprioritised if there was a change of government in September.
''It's common sense, that's what it comes down to,'' he said.
A spokeswoman for the Government's Provincial Development Unit (PDU) said the Puketona project was due to start in August with a completion date of mid-2021.
A retaining wall for the Kawakawa project, if needed, would be built in mid-2020 with roundabout construction starting in September and finishing in April 2021. The Rawene improvements would be done in September to December.
The funding comes from the Government's multibillion-dollar New Zealand Upgrade programme, of which $300m is set aside for capital projects in the regions.
Projects announced yesterday cover roading, airport and coastal infrastructure from the Mid North to Fiordland totalling $190m.
Jones said officials from the PDU and the NZTA had identified roading projects that were ready to go but required funding.
All would enhance community wellbeing and regional economic development.
Northland, like many other regions, had long been starved of infrastructure spending.
''As a person who uses Northland roads a hell of a lot both of these [roundabout sites] stand out as chokepoints on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway,'' Jones said.
Meanwhile, work on a roundabout at Waipapa, also on SH10, is due to get underway in earnest after summer.
An NZTA spokesman said contractors had been relocating underground services and utilities but had agreed with local businesses to hold off with work on SH10 until after the busy summer period.
On Monday contractors are due to start digging trenches for a new fibre optic cable. The current cable, which supplies much of the Far North, runs through the middle of the intersection.
The $9m Waipapa roundabout was one of the first projects funded by the Provincial Growth Fund. It was originally due to be completed by the end of 2020.