And you thought driving between suburbs was bad. For some Bay of Plenty people, the gridlocked crawl through town is a small part of their daily journey as they choose to live in one part of the region, and work in another. Zoe Hunter talks to three people who commute between Rotorua and Tauranga twice a day, every weekday, about why they do it and what it costs. She also takes a look at what the latest highway data says about commuting trends.

Adele Porter and Virgil Iraia spend two hours a day together on the road, so it's lucky they're best friends.

The pair carpool from their homes in Rotorua to their jobs in Tauranga each day from Monday to Friday, splitting the $120 a week petrol bill.

But Porter, 28, and Iraia, 27, wouldn't have it any other way.

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Nicholas Hughes travels the other direction alone, but it's worth it to let his family stay settled in Tauranga while he builds his career in Rotorua.

They are among thousands of motorists who travel the two highways between Rotorua and Tauranga every weekday, according to New Zealand Transport Agency data.

An average of 3876 vehicles used State Highway 36 through Ōropi during weekdays from August 2018 to April 2019 - up 410 vehicles a day since April 2016.

On State Highway 33 through Paengaroa it was an average of 5946 vehicles a weekday, up by more than 1000.

Virgil Iraia lives in the Rotorua suburb of Ngongotahā.

While Rotorua was close to his family and was a cheaper place to live than Tauranga, the harbour city had better work opportunities.

"Living in Tauranga is a possibility, but for me, the cost of living is better in Rotorua and I would rather be closer to my family."

Iraia

An average of 3876 vehicles used SH36 on weekdays from August 2018 to April 2019. Photo / File
An average of 3876 vehicles used SH36 on weekdays from August 2018 to April 2019. Photo / File

and Porter leave Rotorua at about 5.30am to be at work at Tauranga Hospital by 6.30am.

The pair then make the journey home at about 3.30pm to get back to Rotorua by 4.45pm at the latest.

"There seems to be an increase in the amount of traffic on the roads travelling both ways," he said.

It usually cost him between $90 to $120 a week in petrol to get to and from work each day.

"The thing about living in Rotorua is petrol is cheap," he said. "One tank will last you a week."

Iraia did not mind the commute but said the speed and sometimes dangerous driving on the roads worried him a little.

"People just need to slow it down," he said. "There is also a lot of road works at the moment, which can get a bit frustrating."


Adele Porter has been commuting from Rotorua to Tauranga for about five years.

The 28-year-old used to make the commute alone but, for the past three months, she has been carpooling with her best friend, Iraia.

"I don't mind the commute. It is still cheaper to live in Rotorua and it's closer to my family," she said.

"But I have seen Tauranga traffic at its worst. It is gridlocked both in the afternoon and in the morning.

"If you leave at 7.30am you're going to be stuck in traffic and if you're leaving Tauranga about 4pm you're going to be stuck in traffic."

Porter felt lucky to have flexible working hours to be able to avoid the traffic, she said.

I have seen Tauranga traffic at its worst. It is gridlocked both in the afternoon and in the morning.

The Rotorua resident said the volume of traffic travelling between the two cities had increased in the past three years.

"A few years ago there were not that many people travelling the roads," she said.

"I would leave at 6am and there would only be about 10 people, now there's a quite a few."

Bidfood Rotorua general manager Nicholas Hughes travels to Rotorua from The Lakes in Tauranga five times a week for work.

Hughes was working at Bidfood in Tauranga, but the opportunity for a promotion at the Rotorua branch was the reason behind his choice to commute.

He did not want to make the move to Rotorua as his family was settled in Tauranga and instead chose to commute.

He has been commuting between the two cities for two and a half years and leaves Tauranga usually about 5.15am and heads back home at about 4.30pm - about 160km each weekday.

"I am lucky that I leave early enough that I don't hit the traffic," he said.

Morning traffic in Turrett Rd. Photo / File
Morning traffic in Turrett Rd. Photo / File

Hughes said it took him about 45 to 50 minutes to get to Rotorua from Tauranga in the morning on the Tauranga Direct Rd.

"But if it is raining it always takes about 10 minutes longer," he said.

On the way home from Rotorua to Tauranga it takes him about 50 minutes to an hour on the same stretch of road.

"There is more traffic on the way home," he said. "There is a lot of traffic between the two cities."

Greg Murphy takes us through what conditions to be aware of when hitting the road.