Residents and commuters are complaining about what they see as low productivity and bad planning at two major roadworks sites in Rotorua.
Construction work at two roundabouts – one at the intersection of State Highway 5 and SH36, and the other at the intersection of Tarawera Rd and SH30 – started in 2020 and 2019 respectively but remain uncompleted.
Both projects have caused major traffic delays on the way in and out of Rotorua.
"It definitely drives me nuts," irate motorist Nathan Fletcher told the Rotorua Daily Post.
During the week, Fletcher travels between his home in Hamurana and work at Fletcher's Mobile Detailing on Riri St.
But lately, he's been changing his work hours to account for congestion around the Ngongotahā roundabout.
"[On Monday], I left work at 5.30pm and got as far as Countdown before I gave up," Fletcher said.
"So I drove into the car park and watched a movie for 40 minutes before I got back on the road."
Fletcher said he now leaves for work between 7am and 9am and can stay at work until 6.30pm to avoid peak hour traffic.
He said the changes to his schedule are preferable to sitting in a stop-start line of cars for more than half an hour.
The roadworks near the SH5 and SH36 roundabout were part of a project to improve SH5 from Tarukenga to Ngongotahā. It's been funded with $14 million from the New Zealand Upgrade Programme and $1m from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's Safe Network Programme.
Improvements to the roundabout and intersection at Tarawera Rd and SH30 are part of Waka Kotahi's State Highway 30 Eastern Corridor Stage One project that began in December 2019. The estimated cost of this project is $22m.
Due to the mobile nature of Fletcher's work, he has experienced the delays caused by roadworks at the Tarawera Rd roundabout as well.
"It amazes me how they thought it would be a good idea to do those two roundabouts at the same time," Fletcher said.
A spokesperson for Sequoia Eatery on Tarawera Rd, Carrie Lau, said the roadworks were having a detrimental effect on the business.
"We have less customers than before. Some regulars come less because of the traffic," Lau said.
"The traffic is building up every morning at the roundabout. Sometimes it can last a few hours.
"Also, the temporary lane changes often make people confused and [it becomes] more dangerous to pass the roundabout."
Lau said she thought the work could be sped up if more was done on the night shift.
"Currently they only do work when we are working, and most of the time we only see people just standing there," Lau said.
One Lynmore resident, who did not wish to be named, criticised the Tarawera Rd site for what he perceived as a lack of progress.
"This work should have been completed by Christmas," he said.
"Delays, accidents, tempers, productivity and the rest have all suffered because of inept planning and execution," he said in his opinion.
"They keep changing lanes, putting out hundreds of cones but there's no real presence of workers and machines."
The resident said he often observed the traffic backed up to Selwyn Rd.
"It's just appalling. Someone needs to be held to account."
Another resident who lives 300 metres from the Tarawera Rd roundabout took a different view.
"I understand that it's been disruptive for lots of people but to be honest I haven't found it problematic," she said.
"There is inconsistency in travel time but I find it's added a little bit of adventure driving to my day. I've found it fun."
Waka Kotahi regional manager infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton said the Ngongotahā roundabout is due to be open to traffic in August 2021.
"Activity on the site has been consistent unless the weather has impacted work on the ground," Wilton said.
"The whole project is on target to be completed within budget in late 2021."
Wilton said while there had been delays due to underground service clashes at the SH30 and Tarawera Rd site, the project remained on budget and was set for completion next month.
"On the SH30 and Tarawera Rd intersection, the team have implemented two acceleration plans to ensure the project remained on track."
Wilton said safety was the priority for the roadworks both in planning and execution.
"We are prioritising the timing of [projects] so we can make the biggest difference in reducing deaths and serious injuries.
"The majority of our physical works are conducted during daylight hours because it is safer for our workers.
"We are also conscious of noise and vibration impacts on residents in the surrounding area.
"The sooner these improvements are made to the state highway network, the sooner the safety and efficiency benefits are realised."
Wilton said Waka Kotahi thanked motorists for their patience and asked drivers to stick to the posted speed limits at both sites so that everyone gets home safe at the end of each day.