The public debate over what’s been infamously dubbed the ‘horror highway’ has been fired up again.
A petition is running in Katikati urging ‘real improvements’ to SH2 between Katikati and Tauranga.
“Obviously safety is paramount,” says Andy Earl, the Katikati man driving the petition. “But these cheese cutters they are plastering along the centre and side of the road are doing nothing to help the rapid increase in population growth.”
The petition calls on the Government to reinstate the upgrade on SH2 Tauranga to Katikati corridor to prioritise both safety and capacity, as proposed by the preceding National Government.
“Our highway is no longer fit for purpose.”
More than 1500 people agree with Andy. They have attached their signatures to the petition on the Katikati Area Road Facebook page.
It has close to 2500 members and reflects feeling in the area. “We need a highway that can deal with the amount of traffic using it,” insists one commenter on the group’s Facebook page. “Not this fix-in-bits that does nothing for safety.”
Another post says: “unacceptable NZTA – you want to live here a while.” The page offers running news on traffic conditions, snarls, accidents and weather down the notorious stretch of road.
And according to Katikati Community Board chairman, Ben Warren, the SH2 and bypass issues are contributing to the “decreasing quality of life in our town”. He says some people are getting to dislike it so much they’re moving to quieter areas.
He says it’s extremely disappointing to see all the public money squandered on reports, consultants and planning only to have funding pulled from such projects as the Tauranga Northern Link.
“Politicians worried about their own re-election instead of doing what is good for the country are completely letting the public down. The WBOP has the busiest port in New Zealand, it is the biggest horticulture hub in New Zealand and yet the reality is that the economic benefits are being eroded away by small unsafe country roads.”
In his reasoning for the petition, Andy Earl says the Labour Party replaced all the plans for local growth by stalling the previous Government’s plan for a four-lane highway between Katikati and Tauranga.
“The roading development currently implemented includes little more than median barriers and roadside railings. The intention is based solely on safety but not capacity. Our state highway is no longer fit for purpose.”
He says the project needs to stay away from “the clutches of political wrangling, party policy and new agendas”. He says the reason the project hasn’t developed in line with growth is down to three things – the government of the day, NZTA and WBDC.
And rather than a piece meal approach to safety measures he has implored the NZTA to shift focus to the more serious and dangerous parts of the highway, like the stretch between Apata and Te Puna. “I have discussed this with NZTA but it’s like negotiating with a brick wall.”
Ben Warren agrees. His wife was almost “cleaned up” on the Apata ‘S’ bend. “They have fixed the straightest part of the bloody road just outside Waihi when they should have looked at the bends.”
The former Australian police officer with experience in traffic enforcement says it would take three months to straighten the Apata ‘S’ bend. “Or impose a 50 km/h restriction until they can fix it.”
The upgrade petition remains until the end of February.
For its part NZTA has scheduled what it calls a ‘drop-in session’ at the Lighthouse Café in Lockington Road, Katikati, from 3pm on Wednesday, January 29. It wants to talk the public through some safety improvements it has planned for SH2.