Rotorua's mayor has come under fire for backing local Maori over the lifting of the designation for the controversial Rotorua Eastern Arterial route, with one critic saying in their opinion she is pandering to iwi.

But mayor Steve Chadwick rejects the claim, saying she has a new way of working that involves sitting down together to sort out issues.

Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR) group chairwoman and district councillor Glenys Searancke and former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall both said funding for a $24 million upgrade of Te Ngae Rd was welcome. However, they said it was not a long-term solution to growing congestion issues and calls from mayor Steve Chadwick to have the Rotorua Eastern Arterial designation lifted and land returned to iwi were, in their opinion, premature.

The roading package, announced last week by Transport Minister Simon Bridges, will see a new roundabout at the Te Ngae Rd and Tarawera Rd intersection, the four-laning of a section of Te Ngae Rd, and improved walking and cycling connections.


It also means the eastern arterial route through sensitive Maori land close to Lake Rotorua was "unlikely to be built, even in the long-term", Mr Bridges said last week.

"I've asked the New Zealand Transport Agency to develop a strategic view for the long-term future of Rotorua's roading network. They're working through what the next steps are so we aren't in a position to confirm timeframes just yet," he told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday.

Mrs Searancke said congestion on Te Ngae Rd had impeded development and exports from the forestry, tourism and agribusiness sectors and successive councils had recognised Te Ngae Rd upgrades were a medium-term fix.

Mr Hall said the arterial route had always been seen as the best way to fix congestion issues and provide for long-term growth opportunities.

Three Te Arawa iwi - Hurunga te Rangi, Te Roro o te Rangi and Ngati Uenukukopako - want the eastern arterial designation lifted so they can manage or develop the land as they wish.

Mrs Searancke said the residents and ratepayers group held the view it was "most unhelpful for the mayor to pander to their expectations".

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Mr Hall said the issue was one the entire Rotorua community should decide on.

"I understand where iwi are coming from, but if the designation is lifted there will be no alternative, creating a problem for our children and grandchildren.

"It's imperative the designation stays in place. Te Ngae Rd will reach its capacity once again in 15 years and I would have thought our good mayor would have gone into bat for all the residents of Rotorua, rather than just iwi in Ngapuna."

Mrs Chadwick said she had a new way of working that involved all parties affected by an issue sitting down to work things out together.

She said the residents group was in her opinion looking at the way the council was working in a "very old fashioned way".

"We have a new way of working where we sit down with all parties involved and we try to find a solution." In response to the residents' group's opinion she was "pandering" to iwi groups, Mrs Chadwick said in her view, "these comments are very out of date and reflect the old way of working".

Additional reporting Kyra Dawson
Rotorua Eastern Arterial/Te Ngae Rd upgrade:

* $24 million Te Ngae Rd upgrade announced on Friday

* Rotorua Eastern Arterial route "unlikely to be built"

* REA designation put in place in 1964 for future roading project

* Mayor wants designation lifted and land returned to local iwi

* Critics say the designation should not be lifted