State Highway 2 traffic delays north of Tauranga have sparked concern as harvest season approaches.
Motorists were warned earlier this week of significant delays on SH2 between Te Puna and Whakamara due to roadworks. This coincided with a 50km/h zone put in place at a worksite at Wairoa Bridge, where the Ōmokoroa to Tauranga cycleway was being extended.
Kiwifruit contractor Peter John said the slower speed zone was "ridiculous" and had already resulted in a 15-minute trip to travel the 4.3km Snodgrass Rd to the bridge. On Tuesday, a 10km trip from Snodgrass Rd to Brookfield took John 32 minutes.
"It's a big problem," he said.
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"We are coming up to kiwifruit harvest when we are going to have more trucks on the road. [Timeliness] It's very, very important. There's nothing worse when you have 45 people standing around waiting for the truck to arrive. It is terrible."
The seven-night closures of the Wairoa Bridge were expected to run from February to April to help attach the cycleway extension. Work would then continue to build the cycleway track to Carmichael Rd. The 50km/h worksite would remain in place until at least June.
John said he would like to see the work at the bridge held off until after kiwifruit harvest - if the work had to be done at all.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Western Bay of Plenty District Council had received two complaints about the night closures at the bridge. One belonging to John.
Manager of infrastructure services Gary Allis said traffic management plans were designed to minimise delays and notification of works had been advertised. Motorists should plan ahead and allow for the potential delay.
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NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi Bay of Plenty systems manager Rob Campbell confirmed maintenance between Whakamarama and Te Puna had created significant delays.
"Delays are often unavoidable and we appreciate they can be frustrating, however we make every effort to minimise the impact these works have on the community."
Allis said he did not expect a large crossover between the kiwifruit harvest season and the summer maintenance season, which typically ended in March.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said it had not been made aware of any concerns from growers and it was hoped most construction would have ended before peak harvest in April.
"There could be some impact on truck movements from packhouses to the port in this timeframe but with good communication and planning, effects could be limited."
Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said the logistics around delivering goods by truck were often impacted by road works "and we expect that to continue as the Government rolls out its recently announced infrastructure package".
However, Leggett said he did not want to see queues forming as a result of increased travel times due to road works.
"That can create a situation where drivers have their opportunity for rest compromised. Adequate rest is essential to managing fatigue and to keep drivers safe on the road."
What is the Ōmokoroa to Tauranga Cycleway?
The Ōmokoroa to Tauranga Cycleway will provide 19km of off-road paths connecting the Western Bay of Plenty townships of Ōmokoroa and Te Puna into Tauranga's existing urban cycleway network.
The route is made up of 25 sections of new and existing off-road shared paths and local road connections and includes the new cycleway extension across the SH2 Wairoa River Bridge.
The project is jointly funded by Western Bay of Plenty District Council ($1.81m), the NZ Transport Agency ($8m) and Tauranga City Council ($1m) – with additional funding support from the New Zealand Community Trust ($1m), and TECT ($1m).
Source - Western Bay of Plenty District Council