Rush hour became hush hour in Rotorua yesterday morning, as a nationwide lockdown took effect to slow the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.
Traffic monitoring data provided to the Rotorua Daily Post illustrated the immediate impact of the lockdown on the normal life of the town.
The average speed on key commuter routes into the town via Stage Highway 30, 30A and 5 were almost twice as quick as usual.
The Government has instructed that only essential service providers should have staff on the roads for work purposes.
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Among them yesterday were many truck drivers, working to ensure supply chains for food production and essential supplies kept moving.
Husband and wife team Amber and Joe Purvis own small Broadlands-based trucking company Jaks Haulage, which is still operating for essential deliveries.
Joe, who was driving yesterday, said the roads were "a lot quieter" - but not totally empty.
"There are still quite a few campervans and cars on the road."
He travelled through Rotorua about 6.30am and said it wasn't "too bad".
The quieter roads had improved efficiency but also had the added bonus of greatly reducing the number of "****heads doing risky passing manoeuvres".
He said the company was mainly carting supplies for dairy farmers including animal bedding, palm kernel, and silage - all parts of the essential food production supply chain.
Amber said farmers had been asked to not be present during deliveries and keep gates open and machinery clear as part of a set of safety measures bought in over the past two weeks.
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She said on the first day of lockdown one driver was stopped by a police officer near Taupō and asked to demonstrate that he was doing essential work, "which is good".
Drivers had reported coming across cordons in Gisborne and quite a few cyclists and people walking around in Taupō.
She said 80 per cent of the company's customers had shut up shop, which had effectively put the business into a self-imposed lockdown with the exception of essential deliveries.
Office workers were working from home and one older driver had been asked not to work, but the rest had been given a choice of whether they wanted to work, with an option to change their minds at any time if the pandemic situation changed.
"We can't put people's lives at risk ... but everyone is fit and healthy so we let them make their own minds up."
Those who chose to continue working were happy to abide by the safety and hygiene precautions in place. This included close tracking of their movements in a diary, a 4m distance rule and instructions to bring their own lunches and avoid public toilets.
They were taking care to avoid risk to each driver's family isolation "bubble" at home.
Taupō-based Huka Haulage owner Rhys Adlam said the quiet roads were "probably the only good thing to come of this situation".
"It's eerie, really, there is not a lot of traffic, very few vehicles."
It was a "pretty sweet run" in general, including his pass through Rotorua.
New downsides, however, had also arisen. These included no food places or public toilets being open for drivers to use.
He said all the time he gained on quiet roads was lost waiting at pick-ups or deliveries, with stringent new processes in place and some delays.
He aimed to keep his staff at home as much as possible but the company still had work carting essential supplies for food production including hay, stockfeed and wood pellets.
In the Western Bay of Plenty, trucking companies were also still hard at work, with both the kiwifruit harvest and business through the Port of Tauranga continuing.
Taylor Bros driver Nick Murray said it was a "joy to be out there on the road" during his trip from Tauranga to Katikati to Matamata and back on Thursday morning.
The Port of Tauranga yesterday announced new measures to prioritise urgent imported cargo during the national lockdown.
Comparing the average speed on Rotorua commuter routes in the morning peak yesterday, and the average for the previous five weeks.
Stage Highway 30A
State Highway 5
State Highway 30
Source: Tauranga Transport Operations Centre