Every day Kim Richards and her family sit in their Ngongotahā home on tenterhooks. They fear at any time a car could come hurtling through their front property resulting in death or serious injuries. For decades they've endured dozens of crashes and near misses but most are not recorded or don't involve authorities, therefore their pleas for safety improvements to the road outside their home have failed. Journalist Kelly Makiha reports.
A Ngongotahā resident wants to enjoy her family home where she's lived for nearly 60 years. Instead she lives in fear.
Kim Richards worries someone will soon die as vehicles keep crashing outside her home at 295 Ngongotahā Rd, near the town's fire station.
Richards is at her wit's end and says during the decades of living in her family home there have been dozens of crashes.
For years she has begged the NZ Transport Agency to do something to make the bend safer but had recently received news the work had missed out on the latest funding round.
Every day she sits in her living room and cringes when she hears a car.
"You can hear them coming and you just know it's going to happen. It's like we are in fear all the time and we shouldn't have to live like this."
Moving isn't an option. The Richards have lived in that home all their lives and the house belonged to her parents. One day she hoped to pass the home on to her own children.
Most of the time the crashes were small and the cars quickly drove away, meaning there was no record of how bad it was, she said.
But there had been several serious crashes which had taken out her fence and all the trees on her front lawn.
At the end of last year, NZTA installed some reflective arrows on the bend but she said it had done little good as there had been two serious crashes alone in the past three months.
She also feared for neighbouring properties and had been asked by her neighbours not to make her concerns public as they were trying to sell their home. That neighbour's property had now sold to an Auckland-based investment company which had rented it to a young family and now she feared for their lives too.
"I don't even use my own property to allow my grandchildren to play anymore. I can't risk it."
While she said improvements could be made if NZTA either re-aligned the road or installed a steel barrier on the bend, she said the main fault boiled down to drivers.
"The speed they travel and the way they drive is just getting worse ... There have just been so many crashes, I've lost count. There are more near misses and you can hear them."
The last straw came last week when there was yet another crash which landed on her front property. It has prompted Richards to write an open letter this week to NZTA, MPs and the media.
In the letter she said: "I am pleading New Zealand Transport Agency to strongly consider the erection of steel barriers for the safety of not just my whānau, but the five homes on the main road in Ngongotahā near the fire station. We all would like to enjoy our property like everyone else without fearing and being terrified of reoccurring accidents on our road."
In response to written questions from the Rotorua Daily Post, NZTA acting Bay of Plenty system manager Graeme Withington said it had prioritised all funding.
"Part of this means we assess the projects' timing and readiness to proceed, how critical it is for the transport network and whether it can be delivered with some certainty. Lastly, we look to achieve a balanced programme, with the emphasis on our top priority – safety."
Withington said the barrier installation was put up for funding consideration for the 2019/2020 financial funding year along with all other safety improvement projects in the country.
"These projects are prioritised at a national level to provide the best safety outcome within the available funding. The barrier installation was not funded as a priority this financial year and will be put forward for consideration again for the 2020/21 financial year."