It's a morning school run that normally takes 15 minutes tops. Now, with major road works south of Whangārei, the morning road trip takes 45 minutes and sometimes closer to an hour. Thousands of commuters are experiencing the slow ride to Whangārei every morning. But what has become increasing clear to Mata mum Kiri Rutter is that people need to be patient and stop dangerous driving which is putting everyone else on the road at risk. Reporter Kristin Edge hitches a lift on the morning ride from Mata to Otaika Valley School on Loop Rd.
State Highway 1 is alive with cars, logging trucks, school buses, vans and vehicles on the move.
It's 7.58am and time for Kiri Rutter to join the fray and get 8-year-old Sunny Decke-Rutter and 11-year-old brother Reef to school.
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Rutter has been driving this stretch of road to kindy and school for nearly seven years and, with the recent addition of roadworks at Loop Rd, where a major intersection is being built and the road widened, it has caused major delays.
The closure of the southern entrance to Loop Rd has also added to the delays.
NZ Transport says SH1 northbound traffic should maintain a consistent slow speed through the construction area. Once the roundabout is functioning this winter, there would be a significant improvement in SH1 journey times, it says.
Traffic is flowing along the flats near the mangroves flats at Oakleigh.
But at 8.07am just past Mangapai intersection, the red brake lights of vehicles tell Rutter she has joined the back of the queue.
"This is pretty typical these days. The longest the queue has been up to Oakleigh service station."
It's a start/stop affair as the line of traffic slowly snakes north.
At 8.22am, Rutter crawls passed the Puwera landfill turnoff and joins the queue of traffic in the left lane of the passing lane. There is no one driving in the passing lane; motorists realise there is probably only a 10-second advantage of taking the right lane.
"The odd driver thinks that they can get there faster but in the end they are making things dangerous for everyone. You get tail-gated a lot and that's dangerous."
An incident a week ago sparked Rutter to speak out about driver behaviour.
"I was inadvertently involved in the corralling of a very irate driver, who had been trying to pass the queue on the passing lane. I was in the left lane, I could only watch as the battle ensued behind and beside me."
"As that was going on, another impatient flatbed ute driver added to the chaos by overtaking the queue, and the battle in the passing lane, too. The flatbed ute drove down the centre of the road, running over all the yellow posts installed to stop vehicles crossing the centre line.
Oncoming traffic had to take evasive action.
"My heart was racing, and my kids were so quiet," Rutter said.
At 8.25am, we hit the brow of the hill and another nine mutes later we pass the Maungakaramea turn off, where traffic merges and the brakes.
Bumper to bumper, the queue travels past the Portland turnoff and approaches the roadworks at the intersection with Loop Rd.
A message board tells motorists to "Pause do not stop" and "Slow to keep the flow". It's hard to tell how effective it is as the stop/start continues.
Finally it's time to make the left-hand turn to school.
"Sometimes people on the state highway are being far too courteous and stopping to let traffic through and it holds everyone up," Rutter said.
"In a couple of years this won't matter but until this is all completed people need to be patient and take their time. There is not much more that they can do."
At 8.46am, the doors of the family vehicle fly open and goodbyes are issued.
It's been 48-minute journey and "pretty typical" of the morning ride.
"All I want to say is don't be in such a rush. Take your time and be patient," Rutter said.
She will do it all again tomorrow.
For some students travelling on school buses, making it to class on time has been almost impossible since the road works began.
Concerned mum Brigid Roberts has done some calculations and says some students are missing a days' worth of schooling each week because of the traffic delays.
"Our daughter's bus is routinely 30 minutes late picking her up for the 12km trip from Portland to Maunu. She has arrived at school bang on the 8.50am bell just once this year. The latest the bus arrived was 10.15am."
As a result, Roberts has started driving her daughter and other Pompallier College students to school via Otaika Valley and Cemetery Rd - a 16km trip one way.
She had made contact with the Ritchies bus company regional manager Tony Manga about bus times being advanced by 15 minutes to get children to school on time. She also emailed MP Kelvin Davis last month flagging the late-to-school issue.
She had been assured the email had made it's way to the right person and they would "respond in due course".
NZ Transport Agency's Andrew Thackwray said the morning congestion was mainly caused by northbound vehicles stopping on SH1 to let traffic in and out of Loop Rd, creating a tailback.
SH1 traffic was not required to give way at the T-intersection.
"While we encourage courteous behaviour, we also encourage drivers on SH1 to maintain a consistent slow speed through the construction area, slowing to allow vehicles in/out of Loop where possible, without coming to a complete stop," Thackwray said.
"Given the cause of the queuing, we do not believe stop/go traffic management at Loop Rd would improve the traffic flow. We appreciate the courtesy being shown to other drivers here until the roundabout is functioning this winter.
"If northbound drivers on SH1 avoid coming to a complete stop at Loop Road, the state highway traffic will flow more smoothly."
He also advised: "If possible, avoid travelling during the peak period 7am to 9am. Leave earlier or later to avoid the congestion and that will help students and commuters get to their destinations on time."