Another fatal crash on State Highway 2 between Bethlehem and Katikati has convinced a Western Bay councillor it is time for median barriers and to learn the lessons from Karangahake Gorge.
On Friday, a man in his 70s died after a two-car crash between Wairoa Bridge and Clarke Rd. Another person in their 30s was injured in the crash, with Tauranga firefighters extricating a person from the wreckage of one of the cars.
Katikati/Waihi Beach councillor Peter Mackay, who lives close to SH2, said Friday's tragedy was another reminder of the desperate need to address safety along the road.
Mackay said there was a great deal of public unhappiness with the number of fatal and serious crashes on the road.
The crashes were caused by a combination of factors, but the underlying issue was the huge traffic volumes, he said. It meant the road was unforgiving when a driver made a mistake.
Mackay wants cables installed along the centre of SH2 to Katikati to prevent head-on accidents.
He has counted eight occasions where he believed cables installed two years ago between Wainui Rd bridge and Turners Rd had prevented possible head-on accidents.
He highlighted recent Automobile Association figures for New Zealand's most dangerous stretches of roads, with 16 fatalities between Katikati and Te Puna over four years.
Another dangerous section had been through the Karangahake Gorge between Waihi and Paeroa. He said there had been one fatal crash in the same four-year period through the gorge. ''By any statistical measure, it is a huge difference.''
Mackay put the difference down to the 80km/h speed limit on the dangerous sections of the gorge and electronic warning signs flashing the words ''slow down'' on the approach to corners.
Omokoroa Community Board chairman Murray Grainger said 6900 signatures had been collected in three weeks for the petition presented to the Regional Land Transport Committee last month.
The committee was hearing submissions on its draft plan, with a huge response from residents and community groups concerned with safety on SH2 and the need for a Katikati bypass.
Grainger said Friday's head-on crash again showed the unforgiving nature of the road.
The community was calling for SH2 to be redesigned into a four-lane highway, with a centre median barrier and on-ramps and off-ramps for side roads.
He said the opening of the Eastern Link to Paengaroa proved accidents ceased once there was a proper highway.
Richard Mackey from Tauranga Kennels and Cattery had gone out to get petrol when he saw police lights and noticed the road was blocked.
Mackey said he had become accustomed to the traffic noise living so close to the highway, but was worried when things went silent.
"When you are living on SH2 and you don't hear traffic that's [a worry]," he said.
"You know that that is somebody's dad or granddad that is not coming home."
Mackey was an advocate for road safety but said there was not enough information to determine the right solution to avoid fewer accidents.
He suggested the roads could be policed more, lower speeds enforced and more encouragement of public transport.
Tauranga Labour MP Jan Tinetti said Minister Phil Twyford was "fully aware" of the issues around SH2 and said safety was the number one priority in the government's transport plan.
Tinetti said the government had considered short-term solutions similar to the two-lane roundabout which replaced the Te Puna and Minden Rd 'T' intersection.
"One death on the road is one too many. It is heartbreaking," she said. "Something needs to happen."
Twyford had been speaking to Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty council chief executives and the mayors about road safety in the area, Tinetti said.
"It has been made clear that was everyone's number one priority."
Bay of Plenty National MP Todd Muller acknowledged the family who had lost a loved one.
"This is something the wider community, particularly Te Puna and Omokoroa, will be feeling," he said.
"A new highway needs to be built to make it safer for our community," he said. "Median barriers and straightening a few corners is just not sufficient."
National Party leader Simon Bridges said without the "necessary" Tauranga Northern Link through to Katikati there would be more unnecessary deaths and serious injuries.
"It is truly awful to have another tragedy on this stretch of road," he said.
"The government has said it will probably do some safety improvements but they won't cut it. The major job needs to be done."
Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber said he was frustrated at waiting for something to be done about the safety of the road. He hoped the regional council would lift the priority of road safety in the area.
A police media spokesperson said the Serious Crash Unit was investigating.
And another SH2 crash
Friday's tragedy was followed by another crash on SH2 yesterday.
Emergency services were called to the crash at the intersection of SH2 and Te Karaka Dr just after 5pm after a car rolled and crashed into a bank.
A police media spokeswoman said a man was trapped inside the vehicle.
A St John ambulance was called to the scene and one person had suffered minor injuries, she said.
An eyewitness told the Bay of Plenty Times he could see a man trapped in the passenger seat of the car.
"The door looked pretty smashed up," he said.