Katikati's proposed bypass is the talk of the town after recent funding boosts for multimillion-dollar roading projects in other parts of Western Bay of Plenty. Sandra Conchie reports.
"It's never going to happen, so I don't know why we are continuing to talk about it."
• Council considers Katikati bypass DIY funding option after NZTA puts project on backburner
• Premium - GRIDLOCK: Could a one-way system save Katikati from congestion?
• Bypasses around State Highway 2 north of Tauranga get top priority leaving campaigners celebrating
• Green light for Katikati bypass on SH2
That's the reaction from several Katikati residents to the lack of funding for the proposed Katikati (heavy vehicle) bypass after $933 million worth of roading projects for the Western Bay of Plenty have been given the green light.
On Wednesday, Minister of Transport Phil Twyford announced $478m would be spent on the four-lane Tauranga Northern Link and $455m on upgrades to State Highway 2 from Te Puna to Ōmokoroa.
Disappointed Katikati's Applianceplus store branch manager Sammy Holmes said," Once again Katikati township misses out, I don't understand it."
Holmes said traffic congestion along the main street was bedlam.
"I have seen multiple near-misses, including some adjacent to our store. We also often hear screeching of tyres and it's diabolical trying to get in and out of car parks.
"Sometimes you have to literally take your life in your hands crossing the road ... And when we do a delivery run to Tauranga, we need to factor in an extra hour's travel time at least."
A longtime Katikati resident, who only wished to be known as Colleen, said she was not "holding her breath" that the bypass would happen.
Peters spurs efforts to move port to Northland with $40m cheque
Northern Link, SH2 upgrades announced for BOP
Become 'a city of kindness': Housing advocates say ditch the begging bylaw
"The bypass has been talked about for years and years. In fact, Transit bought my son's house about 25 to 30 years ago to build the bypass."
A long-standing retailer, who asked not to be identified, said, she was "over it".
"It's never going to happen."
Alan Bevan, a sales representative from Tauranga, regularly travelled from Tauranga to Auckland through Katikati for more 30 years, but now goes over the Kaimai Range.
"Unless the bypass goes ahead the Katikati township is going to continue to suffer."
Hammer Hardware salesman Noel Bradly said he had "mixed feelings" about the bypass, which was a "polarising" issue.
"I want it because a lot of people are pushing for it and it will make them feel better. Especially some of our older citizens who don't like to come to town to shop any more."
Katikati Antiques retail assistant Rhonda May said she could not believe the bypass was not at least mentioned in the recent Government funding announcement.
May said one of her customers, who moved to Rotorua, was adamant they would not move back to Katikati unless the bypass was built.
"I agree with her when she says that the lack of a bypass is destroying the hub of Katikati and stifling economic growth. It's difficult to attract unique businesses to set up here. "
Katch Katikati promotions manager Jacqui Knight said it was nearly 100 years since the bypass was first foreshadowed.
"Given the huge volume of traffic that travels this route and the number of accidents and the increasing social and economic effects on the town, it's vital the bypass goes ahead.
"I'm confident it will happen. We need to stay strong and keep lobbying our politicians to push for it to happen sooner rather than later.
"If this issue becomes a political football between the National Party and the Government to get it done, I don't care. Whatever, it takes, let's just get it done."
Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor Garry Webber said he was disappointed Katikati has to wait for the bypass, but he was not surprised.
"There are significant transport issues in Auckland and Queenstown too and each region has to compete for the same bucket of money from central government," he said.
"But our council is spending $200,000 to do a thorough review of the proposed plans for the bypass, including the engineering proposals and geotechnical issues talked about for the last 30-odd years."
Webber said the review was expected to be completed by June and the council would then need to talk to the regional land transport committee and the NZ Transport Agency.
"We need to ensure we have hard evidence and the concrete facts, and that is why we are undertaking the review, which includes looking at daily traffic volumes and so on."
Transport Minister Phil Twyford's office referred inquiries about the bypass to the NZ Transport Agency.
A Transport Agency spokesperson said the projects in the NZ Upgrade Programme were chosen by the Government to support the country's growth and economic prosperity.
The focus of the investment was in growth areas – Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Queenstown, they said.
"The range of projects selected across the country best support the Government's key priorities; safety and access; enabling our cities to grow and provide better access to new housing and employment opportunities, as well as supporting tourism and keeping our economy growing and prospering," the agency spokesperson said.
There were mixed reactions among Ōmokoroa residents and business people to the $455m upgrade to the State Highway 2 from Te Puna to Ōmokoroa.
A delighted Deep Batth, who owns Indian restaurant The Address in Ōmokoroa Rd, said he could not wait for the improvements to happen.
Batth, who has lived in Tauranga for nine years and also owns India Today restaurant on The Strand, said he was a regular traveller on SH2 between Tauranga and Ōmokoroa.
"Ōmokoroa Rd turnoff is just diabolical, especially for people wanting to turn right and getting in and out of this road at peak times of the day, it is just bedlam.
"It's going to be good for the district both residents and local businesses," he said.
Ōmokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park manager Ross Addison described the funding announcement for the upgrades as "electioneering".
"We're in an election year after all, and we've had promises before it will be done."
An Ōmokoroa Rd Super Liquor store assistant manager, who only wanted to be known as Lucky, said, "I will believe it when I see it."
Ōmokoroa Community Board chairwoman Teresa Sage said the upgrade needed to be done sooner rather than later, but residents just need to wait to see when it will happen.
Sage said her daughter attended Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and traffic congestion on SH2 meant at least a 90-minute round trip each day.
"We needed this upgrade done yesterday, but we will have to wait to see if it happens."