Long-awaited roading improvements in Rotorua are set to begin next month. Sandra Conchie and Cira Olivier sought reaction from local residents and community leaders.
The first stage of a $17 million project to improve a section of State Highway 30/ Te Ngae Rd now has a start date.
The NZ Transport Agency announced yesterday that work on the Eastern Corridor project would begin on February 18.
Construction would be in stages with the final stage expected to be completed in late 2021.
• Tarawera's Te Ngae roundabout upgrade by NZTA to include traffic lights
• Construction on $17m Te Ngae Rd project to begin next month
• Four-laning of Te Ngae Rd to Rotorua Airport up in the air
• $24m upgrade for Te Ngae Rd (+video)
Rotorua residents and business people have welcomed the long-awaited improvements but National MP for Rotorua Todd McClay said it was too "too little, too late".
The project was part of the $24m programme to transform Rotorua's central and eastern corridors in partnership with the Rotorua Lakes Council.
NZTA's, also known as Waka Kotahi, acting director of regional relationships Ross I'Anson said the project would improve safety and increase opportunities for cycling and other transport modes on SH30.
I'Anson said the project was key to supporting the district's growth.
The section of focus was from Sala St to Iles Rd.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said the improvement of the eastern roading corridor was "crucial" for the city and it was great it was getting under way.
"This will help to alleviate current pressures and will help to support growth in a part of our city where development of new housing areas is under way."
The project also involved upgrading the Tarawera roundabout to a signalised intersection, operated by traffic lights, as well as improvements to the SH30/Sala St intersection.
It also included four-laning a section of the highway between Allen Mills and Iles Rds, 3.5km of new shared paths and new powerlines and water mains.
Delays to people's journeys during the first stage were expected to be minor.
Stage 2 would hone in on the section of StH30 from Iles Rd to Rotorua Airport.
Te Ngae Physiotherapy admin staff member Jonaye Griffin said they were glad something was finally being done about the "shocking traffic".
Griffin said the traffic had been increasingly worse, which did not affect the business as much as it did clients.
Palazzo kitchen designer Sarah Spray said while the work will be disruptive and would likely affect the business, it needed to happen.
"Something needs to be done about that road," she said.
Spray said traffic lights would hopefully mean crashes at the roundabout, which were not irregular, would lessen.
Coupland's store manager Cyril Manuel managed both bakeries in Rotorua - on Lake Rd and at the Redwoods Shopping Centre - and remembered when road works took place on Lake Rd a few years ago.
Manuel said the road works resulted in a drop in sales but businesses returned once the works were completed and he hoped this would be the case along the state highway.
Manuel said 4pm to 5pm was a particular struggle for his and other businesses at the centre as vehicles became jammed in the traffic, which backed up and did not move.
Todd McClay officially launched a petition in August last year, which called on NZTA/Waka Kotahi to four-lane Te Ngae Rd and build a safer roundabout at Ngongotaha. The petition had now reached more than 5000 signatures.
"It's pleasing that the Tarawera roundabout will be improved, but it's too little too late."
The last National Government announced and funded this upgrade four years ago and the Labour Government has been dragging its feet, McClay said.
"Rotorua's growth needs it and local people deserve it... I will continue to fight to make sure Te Ngae Rd gets built."
Rotorua's Labour MP Tamati Coffey said despite McClay's comments about National's commitment to the improvements, it was only an election promise.
"National had nine years to sort this problem out and didn't, and we have only been in office for two years which is a comparatively short period of time," he said.
"We are the ones who are delivering to fix the problem and I'm very happy and I'm sure the people of Rotorua are too that these works will start next month."