Public anger over Links Ave halts council meeting

Matthew Nicholson presented his petition about the Links Avenue trial to council today. Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive.

A Tauranga City Council meeting came to an abrupt stop on Monday after a disgruntled public gallery heckled the commissioners over the Links Avenue trial.

Matthew Nicholson was presenting his 5627-signature strong petition and supported by around 40 people in the public gallery as well as three by-election candidates.

Nicholson’s petition was calling for council to refund people for the fines they had received for using the Links Avenue bus lane.

The eastern end of Links Avenue has been turned into a cul-de-sac by forming two bus lanes, for a four-month trial period and anyone that drives through it receives a $150 fine.

Nicholson started his petition after he received a warning and saw the number of people that had been warned or fined.

He told council the trial wasn’t “fit for purpose”, the notification for the trial was inadequate and the signage and road layout were confusing.

“Fining during a trial is not an effective way to engage your community,” he said.

“Instead 16,000 road users have been labelled as criminals, 8500 who had been charged as such with a fine.

“That may seem very dramatic, but that's how it's perceived by the community.”

In the first five weeks of the trial more than $1.4 million worth of fines were handed out. For the first two weeks 8500 warning letters were issued, after that 9540 infringements were sent out as of May 9.

He said a resident of Ascot Road had been fined five times and denied a waiver three times to exit her own street.

“Low income residents of Links Ave and surrounding roads are now staring down the barrel of fines, totalling more than a thousand dollars, at a time where the cost of living is at a high and affordability is at a low.”

The road layout and signage of the trial  have been labelled confusing. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

The trial was initiated after concerns were raised about the safety of students using Links Avenue. The street is a travel corridor for Omanu School, Mount Maunganui Intermediate and Mount Maunganui College.

Prior to the trial Links Avenue had 7500 vehicle movements each day.

Nicholson said no one disagreed the safety of children in the community was important, but the trial did not “fully address” the safety concerns it just shifted it to the surrounding areas.

“This is not just a Links Avenue issue,” he said

“This is a total area issue, which raises the question as to why Links Avenue in particular is the sole focus of the safety concerns.

 “When you close a road used by 7500 cars they need somewhere to go,” he said.

He spoke about a resident of Golf Road who said the road was not safe because of the increased traffic. The resident said three children had ridden into their car on bikes and they were waiting for a serious accident.

Nicholson said there was minimal consultation with those most affected and likened the trial to “cutting off someone’s arm when trying to save their leg”.

He closed by asking if the fines are there to protect children then why was the trial operating outside of those hours. 

Tolley said council received the petition and would prepare a report for a later date.

Nicholson’s presentation was met with applause from the public gallery who also jeered and asked questions.

Members of the public heckled the commissioners about the trial. Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive.

A man in the public gallery called out there was no consultation and no involvement with the public.

Commission chair Anne Tolley said it “was not an opportunity for the community to have a conversation” and called for a recess after continued heckling.

Tolley said people were able to speak in the public forum if they applied to council prior to a meeting.

“It's Tolley's rules only,” yelled one man in the gallery.

“What a farce. Time for you to go Tolley,” he continued.

After the meeting resumed, Tolley restated the council would prepare a report likely in time for the council meeting on June 13.

 “Nothing changes in the meantime. We just ask people to follow the law,” she said.

Tolley said council was considering a “citizens’ assembly” for the final two months of the trial.

That would involve a group of residents from the street and suburb, as well as other interested parties, such as the schools, to work on what a solution might look like.

Tolley said they would look to include this in the June 13 council meeting as well.

She said as the trial reaches the halfway point council was just starting to see a behaviour change.

Commission chair Anne Tolley. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Tolley thanked everyone who attended the meeting.

“We know that this is a significant issue,” she said.

“The safety of children going to and from school is our top priority and we have to act.

“We do understand it is causing significant disruption to people's lives and we understand the enormity of that.

“I just encourage everyone to follow the rules whilst we see if we can find a sensible solution for everyone.”

The by-election candidates that attended were Sam Uffindell from National, Cameron Luxton of ACT and Sue Grey of the Outdoors and Freedom Party.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ ON Air.

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Good One Gillkelly

Posted on 25-05-2022 09:31 | By Yadick

Hits the button on the spot with a real win-win solution. The best use of resources would be to close the road between 2:45pm to 3:45pm for through traffic and that’s it. 

Hey Jed

Posted on 24-05-2022 13:12 | By Howbradseesit

Correct - NZ loves road cones and useless road workers. I’ve been keeping any eye on the storm water upgrade on Cameron and amazed at how common it is to see ’workers’ just standing there...


Posted on 24-05-2022 11:43 | By morepork

... the reason the Commission avoids consulting with the public BEFORE projects start, is that their schemes and "solutions" get exposed to commonsense and shown to be the farces they often are. This was a lively session by the look of it and, if nothing else, it will at least send the message that the people who live there are very serious about a solution.


Posted on 24-05-2022 08:52 | By dumbkof2

how many of these protesters are rat runners. there are certainly thousands of people live in that street


Posted on 24-05-2022 07:07 | By kiwi_brat2003

If the council thinks Links road traffic was bad they should try driving Dixon road Papamoa as there isn’t any room for 2 cars let alone a bus route. ?????. there is a kindergarten and a school on it as well.

Crazy times.

Posted on 24-05-2022 06:38 | By Helo1

Correct, this is not a Links Ave issue it’s a regional issue. The wise ones in council made Links Ave unsafe by putting the bus lane in in the first place, now they’re trying to fix it by making another mistake….where does it end? My mammy taught me when I was a wee fella ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’ I guess they skipped that lesson.

As a ratepayer

Posted on 23-05-2022 21:47 | By jj

As a ratepayer I am disapointed with Ms Tolly, her input, her tenure and the prohibitive salary I am helping fund.


Posted on 23-05-2022 20:10 | By Gillkelly

Better time to have a discussion? As a user of links ave for 20 years on school runs daily - the big issue isn’t the cars it’s the bus lane sandwiched onto the side of the road, making it narrower - children piece meal their way to school so really the only issue is when they all leave at the same time - and if you had witnessed some of those kids and the way they exit I’d be amazed they survived regardless of cars or traffic! The best use of resources would be to close the road between 2:45pm to 3:45pm for through traffic and that’s it. IF traffic is the issue why are there huge buses using it as a daily route. And bang on the money re just shifting the issue to other areas - are we to close all roads to schools?

Vote Tolley out!

Posted on 23-05-2022 19:58 | By jed

Tolley needs to go in the next election. She is doing a terrible job... look at the numerous roadworks around the city.... they are moving at glacial speeds. Why does it take a month to put in a roundabout?


Posted on 23-05-2022 16:14 | By dumbkof2

tolley/mahuta have to find the money from somewhere to fund their grandiose schemes

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