Politicians and planners agree an expensive, long-term solution is needed to fix major safety problems at Bulli Pt - Te Poporo on State Highway 1 between Taupō and Tūrangi, but even a partial fix that has already been approved for funding could be a year or more away from starting.
The new coalition government has talked up its roading credentials pre-election, but the treacherous stretch of State Highway 1, which has been the site of numerous accidents and rolled trucks in recent years, is not included in National’s ‘roads of national significance’
The previous Labour government allocated $4 million in May 2023 for the construction of two retaining walls around the Bulli Point corner, but a NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi spokeswoman confirmed this work would not begin any time soon.
“While funding has been approved to improve resilience of SH1 at two locations [at] Te Pōporo/Bulli Point, the details of the projects are not available yet as the design needs to be completed.
“Scope and timing of this work is currently being confirmed but work is likely to begin [in] 2024/25.”
There was hope a larger-scale solution could gain traction under National’s Transport for the Future policy.
Although the road was not named as one of the new “roads of national significance”, “safety and resilience improvements” were flagged for further investigation on SH1 between Taupō and Waiouru.
Taupō MP and Cabinet minister Louise Upston this week reaffirmed her commitment to further investigation into potential fixes.
“Stakeholders have told me they prefer a long-term solution over interim safety measures for SH1 Taupō to Tūrangi.
“The first step is NZTA and the Taupō District Council conducting a full investigation into the best option to meet our needs.
“When that is completed, we will have a better understanding of how to proceed.
“National will work with our coalition partners to decide on priorities for New Zealand’s roading network and make as many improvements as we can, as fast as we can.”
Some major stakeholders are calling for drastic action in the form of an inland bypass.
A business case for a by-pass was costed at $950 million in 2017, with one option that would see the road take a new route from Hatepe Hill, all the way to Desert Rd.
A new road was expected to prevent 15 deaths or serious injuries every five years and shave 14 minutes off the travel time.
Waikato Regional Council Regional Transport Committee chairman, councillor and Taupō resident Mich’eal Downard, described road safety at Te Pōporo / Bulli Point as “a critical issue that should definitely be prioritised high on this list”.
He said due to the multiple risks associated with trucks rolling into the Lake, there was also a need to ensure that a bypass was considered as a longer-term solution.
Similarly, a Taupō District Council spokesman said the council would like to see two larger options explored for the road.
“TDC has consistently advocated to central government that this stretch of the highway needs urgent attention, whether that be re-routing or widening the road.
“Council’s stance is there are some real issues regarding the safety and resilience of this section of State Highway.”
Taupō District Deputy Mayor Kevin Taylor was unequivocal about the urgency of those avenues being explored.
Taylor is the Taupō District Council representative on the Waikato Regional Transport Committee.
“Having a major state highway adjacent to the taonga that is Lake Taupō is a recipe for disaster.
“This is not just a roading issue, but a significant environmental issue.
“Long-term, an alternative route needs to be explored with landowners, Waka Kotahi, TDC and our communities.”
He also acknowledged that such a project would take years, so there was a need for the planned retaining wall works to be completed in the meantime.
“The proposed safety improvements are an essential interim step.
“A major re-route however is a significant undertaking that will be many years in the delivery and come with a high cost, so interim work needs to be prioritised.”
Milly Fullick is a journalist based in Taupō. She joined the Taupō and Tūrangi Herald team in 2022.
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