5 Aug 2016

'Our roads are so busy that it's dangerous'

9:46 am on 5 August 2016

Angry Katikati residents booed transport officials at a public meeting about the dangerous state highway running through the Bay of Plenty town.

Last night's meeting began with a moment's silence for the five Tongan men killed when their car was hit by a truck on State Highway 2 at Aongatete, just a few kilometres outside the town, on Tuesday.

Katikati residents crowded the town hall for a meeting about the state highway running through the town.

Katikati residents crowded the town hall for the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

The stretch of SH2 is the country's third most dangerous road, and the town's residents say with trucks passing through every 30 seconds, a bypass is essential. They say they have been demanding a bypass for more than 40 years.

Mr Bridges told the crowd NZTA officials were considering a bypass but were now leaning towards fixing the existing road and making safety improvements.

When officials tried to say road improvements would achieve the same result they were drowned out by jeers from many of the 350 people crammed into the town hall.

Locals said the unsafe road was harming the community.

"Our roads are so busy that it's dangerous," said resident Ben Warren. "What used to be a quiet drive to Tauranga would take 25 minutes, now you're flooded with traffic. Some days it looks like the Auckland motorway.

"Public holidays through Katikati you can't move - and it's just an essential piece of infrustructure that we need.

"They're spending millions of dollars in road improvements south of here but ignoring the really big issue of where the traffic's coming through. "

Transport minister Simon Bridges addresses the meeting.

Transport minister Simon Bridges addresses the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Ross Paterson, wanted the NZTA and the minister to realise the community wants a bypass.

"They've been waiting for a bypass for some 30 or 40 years. It was close around 15 years about ago but not at the moment. [Mr Bridges] needs to take that message on board and see how it can be delivered."

"I think he'll take away a very clear message from the community, the same as he did in Mokaroa two months ago when he arrived there and spoke to them.

" He will have no doubt that people are quite concerned about road safety and what they want in their community here in Katikati and that is the bypass. "

The minister announced in April a $520 million roading package to transform State Highway 2 between Waihi to Tauranga.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report he was not able to specify what would be spent on the area of this week's fatal accident, as consultations were still going on, but median strips and barriers were being explored as options for upgrading the road.

The accident site was not the most dangerous section of road but is certainly still a candidate for investment.

He said a bypass on SH2 could have the effect of making it a more attractive route and therefore increase the traffic.

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