Safety improvements worth $6.4 million at a "nightmare" Rotorua intersection are set to begin soon.
Contractors will be on-site at the Whakatāne turnoff - the intersection of State Highways 30 and 33 - from this week getting things ready and work is scheduled to begin in July.
A blessing was held at the intersection yesterday morning by Ngāti Rangiteaorere and attended by their Koromatua Council, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, Beca and the Downer project team.
Te Arawa kaumatua Dr Ken Kennedy officiated the groundbreaking karakia ceremony.
"Ngati Rangiteaorere have been raising the issues around this dangerous Main Highway turnoff for years which sadly has resulted in numerous fatalities in the vicinity over the years.
"Today is a significant day which will hopefully fulfil the aspirations of Ngati Rangiteaorere to make this area of Ngati Rangiteaorere safe."
NZTA regional manager infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton said safety improvements at the intersection would be welcomed by locals who had raised concerns about traffic going too fast and feeling unsafe turning.
Between 2016 and 2020, five people lost their lives or were seriously injured at the intersection.
Most of the crashes were caused by vehicles turning right, cars travelling too fast and poor visibility, according to NZTA.
Ata Armstrong has lived on the corner of SH30 for the past 40 years. She previously told the Rotorua Daily Post she and her husband had witnessed one fatality and many bad accidents and near misses and said something needed to be done.
"It's a bloody nightmare."
The work is part of the agency's Road to Zero strategy and will involve building a roundabout to slow down traffic to make it safer and easier for people to turn.
"Road to Zero sets us on a path to achieve Vision Zero, a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads," Wilton said.
"One of the key focus areas as part of this strategy is safety improvements to high-risk sections of road where deaths and serious injuries occur, such as this one."
From this week NZTA's contractor will be setting up a site office and getting things ready for clearing vegetation.
They will then find and move any services before starting earthworks.
"We're also making it safer for people on bikes so they don't have to navigate a busy roundabout when travelling north towards Tauranga. They can safely bypass the intersection by using a cycle path along Rangiteaorere Rd."
The works were announced after a 2020 speed review when the stretch of road on SH33 down to Rotorua Airport was lowered to 80km/h.
Last year the speed was lowered at the junction from 80km/h to a variable 60km/h.
The project is scheduled for completion in February next year.