A group of Mount Maunganui residents are frustrated at a lack of consultation regarding controversial plans to trial a cul-de-sac on Links Avenue.
The trial period, which begins Monday, is set to last five weeks with a review in December.
Tauranga City Council says it’s necessary to improve safety for pedestrians along the route, especially schoolchildren.
Links Ave will be closed as a thoroughfare for general traffic throughout the duration of the trial, with traffic cameras in operation to enforce compliance. Buses, emergency services and rubbish trucks will still have access.
“We can’t afford to delay action any further,” says Tauranga City Council commission chair Anne Tolley.
“While nothing changes, schoolchildren are at risk every single day. What we’re doing now will test the effect of the cul-de-sac option, both on Links Avenue and on the surrounding road network, so that further discussion on a long-term solution for Links Ave is well-informed.”
In June, council stated that consultation with local residents and wider community would take place “before any changes to the road layout are made”.
However, with the trial commencement just days away, the suggestion is that did not happen.
Teri Logie, who created a Facebook group opposing the proposed changes, lives less than 100 metres away from where the cul-de-sac will be installed at the Ascot Road turn-off.
“We just want to be consulted,” she says.
“There was a mailbox drop about a week ago and that was it. That was the first time we knew what we were fighting. You can’t petition against something if they haven’t said what it actually is.”
That viewpoint is supported by the Arataki Community Liaison Group, a working group established with Council to help provide feedback from the community.
A group spokesperson says several options for improving safety on Links Ave were presented by Council staff at a meeting on February 2.
The cul-de-sac was discussed but, according to ACLG, dismissed.
They were then informed by Council staff and commissioners in a meeting on Monday, November 1, that the cul-de-sac trial would be starting just over a fortnight later.
“This was the first time we heard that a cul-de-sac trial would be going ahead,” says an ACLG spokesperson.
“In no way could this meeting be considered consultation on whether the cul-de-sac proposal should proceed, as that decision had already been made.”
The road is set to be trialled as a cul-de-sac from Monday. Photo. John Borren.
Tauranga City Council director of transport Brendan Bisley says original plans on engaging with the community were disrupted by Covid-19 restrictions.
He says the trial period needed to be implemented before the end of this school year in order for long-term safety improvement decisions to be made for early-2022.
“The trial period is part of the initial consultation so that we can get real time feedback from residents and the transport network,” says Brendan.
“This initial trial and consultation will test the safety impacts of the cul-de-sac on alternative transport users, residents and pedestrians, importantly school students. It will also test the impact on the wider transport network.”
Brendan says this trial, alongside consultation, will inform future decision making.
“We look forward to consulting with the community on options before making decisions on permanent solutions for Links Avenue.”
Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown believes there is currently a “happy balance” to the traffic situation and the trial will cause “chaos” along other routes, namely Oceanbeach Road and Maunganui Road. He has received hundreds of complaints about the upcoming trial.
“When this idea was first floated around Council said before they do anything they would consult with the residents,” says Philip.
“They have not consulted one bit. It is just breaking promises.”
But Ivan, another Links Ave resident, was keen to point out this is a bigger issue than just inconvenience. He believes the cul-de-sac does not sufficiently address safety. He echoes a larger sentiment that the removal of the bus lane on Links Ave would be a preferred option whilst not piling extra traffic pressure on other arterial roads.
“The issue is about the safety of the kids,” says Ivan, who has school-aged children who use the road daily.
“The problem is the buses, so council is actually doing nothing about the safety. Nothing is going to change with this cul-de-sac.”
Brendan says the bus lane can’t be removed due to the high number of school students that rely on the bus service and due to Links Ave being identified by Tauranga City Council key, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Waka Kotahi as a key route for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
“Removing the bus lane may seem like an obvious way to improve safety,” says Brendan.
“However, that would still leave 5500 cars a day travelling along what was designed to be a residential street and leave buses unable to transport school children and community members on a consistent schedule.”