Yvonne Gibson is a feisty 70-something-year-old, and claims to be “a voice” for the aggrieved of suburban Greerton.
Having been told that Tauranga City Council has received half-a-dozen complaints about traffic safety improvements along Cameron Road through Greerton, she responds: “Well, council, here’s another 695 bloody complaints.”
She’s waving 30 pages of signatures - a petition - under the reporter’s nose to re-enforce her point.
“It’s not acceptable, it’s crap,” says Yvonne. “What city would reduce a two-lane road to one lane in the hope of improving traffic flows?”
What’s not acceptable to Yvonne, and it seems the 695 signatories to her petition, is Tauranga City Council’s efforts to defuse a crash hotspot. Some have suggested it is working. Traffic has been slowed, there are fewer crashes and it’s safer.
“I would disagree,” says Yvonne. “There were 23 crashes in 2016 and 70 in the last five years. I am told there have been several nose-to-tail accidents since the re-development.” And, she says, pedestrians take their lives in their own hands with mobility scooters, regular scooters and bicycles.
Yvonne read a newspaper article about the impact of the roading re-development on local business. It wasn’t positive. She read it again, and then a third time before deciding it was time for action.
She parked herself outside a Lotto shop, a chemist and a supermarket for three hours on three different days to gather signatures. “I had no trouble,” says Yvonne. “People were very keen to sign. They’re not just moaners, they have genuine grievances about this development. They are angry. Very, very angry.”
And they needed a voice, so Yvonne spoke up.
Her own personal experience of negotiating Greerton fired her up. “It took 22 minutes to drive from the old Gilmours building on Cameron Road to the front gates of Althorp Village, where I live.” Google maps says that’s a journey of around 3.7 kilometres, which should have taken her about seven minutes.
Reaction to her petition has been interesting. “A couple of guys offered to bring their bulldozers in and fix things – put Cameron Road back to what it was,” she says.
“Some said ‘hey, you know that despite the petition, nothing will happen’. Maybe so. But the council needs to know there are a lot of very angry people out there.“
Yvonne’s suggestions for improving the “improvements” is restoring the double lanes through the village, removing the tolls on the toll road so traffic will divert around the village and returning the pedestrian lane to the middle of village.
TCC’s website says the improvements were needed because the Cameron Road and Chadwick Road roundabout was ranked the second worst local road location in the city in terms of serious, minor and non-injury crashes.
To improve safety, council reduced the number of ‘conflict’ areas by taking away some traffic movements, such as U-turns and the right turn from Cornwall Street, and providing signalised pedestrian crossings and cycle facilities.
The desired outcomes are the improved general road safety of the Cameron Road/Chadwick Road intersection, improved safety for people moving through the area by foot, bike or mobility scooter, protection of most of the trees, additional greenspace and trees and new cycle facilities, as well as retaining the village feel.
Yvonne says she hopes to present the petition to council early next year. “I am just voicing what the people feel and they absolutely hate it. And as for that pedestrian crossing…”