'We need it done' - Government urged to reconsider deadly strip of Tauranga road

A Bay of Plenty campaigner is again urging the Government to make progress on an infamously deadly strip of road in Tauranga, warning the Select Committee yesterday that "every three months someone is going to die on that road". 

It comes as National hammered the Government to reconsider the roads of national significance programme - presenting petitions, appealing to the Select Committee and using six MPs to question the Transport Minister during Parliament's question time over the discarded programme. 

'Slow Down, High Crash Area' sign. Source: 1 NEWS

Andrew Hollis, leader of Fix the Bloody Road coalition of Tauranga, spoke at the Transport Select Committee alongside Western Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson. 

He said the community is "extrodinarily concerned over the lack of development" of State Highway 2 between Tauranga and Ōmokoroa, a stretch of road which has seen numerous deaths and serious accidents. 

The previous National Goverrment promised the Tauranga Northern Link, which was set to be upgraded to a four-lane highway. The current overnment instead committed $100 million to be spent on safety between Waihi and Omokoroa, but protesters say the four-lane highway must be built.

Mr Hollis said he talks to people daily "when there are sirens going".

"We have daily sirens going from the volunteer fire brigade," he added. "This morning there was another serious accident. 

The highway is now two generations old and is no longer fit for purpose, says Fix the Bloody Road’s Matthew Farrell. Source: Breakfast

"We know every three months someone is going to die on that road. It costs us around $50 million in accidents... every year. We've been promised a road since '95. 

"We need it done. We don't understand why we can't get movement, why it's delayed again for a year, which is literally four dead people. 

"All we want is a date."

Mr Muller said the community in Western Bay of Plenty were "hugely disappointed and frustrated" at the cancellation of a four-lane highway between Tauranga and Katikati.

"It's promised to be now a two lane highway built sometime in the future. It's completely let down the community."

National handed over eight petitions today with 16,091 signatures in total by people "concerned about safety and congestion" of regional roading.

In question time today, Mr Muller asked Transport Minister Phil Twyford why the Tauranga Northern Link did not go ahead. 

"The NZTA has re-evaluated that project to make sure that we save lives, prevent serious injuries on that road and deliver transport improvements that were neglected for nine years on that stretch of road and are still desperately needed, and we're going to deliver them," Mr Twyford said.

"This coalition Government is committed... to a transport policy that doesn't hand pick gold-plated expressways that consume billions of dollars of taxpayers' money - providing safety improvements to a small section of the state highway network instead of investing in safety improvements across the entire state highway network to save hundreds of lives."

In September, Mr Twyford was questioned about the same stretch of road after protesters blocked part of the road in Tauranga, calling for major safety upgrades.

The Transport Minister agreed it needs to be fixed, as National’s Todd Muller challenged the Minister "to experience the road first-hand". Source: 1 NEWS

Then-National MP Jami-Lee Ross asked Mr Twyford: "Why did he make the funding decision to reduce the state highway improvement budget... a project that would have saved lives on a stretch of road that has seen 86 serious and death crashes in the recent past years?"

Mr Twyford rejected that he made the decision, and said he agreed "with the people of Tauranga that we need to fix the bloody road".

"The number of crashes is unacceptable," he added. "We are investing $65 million right now on State Highway 2 between Waihī and Ōmokoroa to make this stretch of road safer."

He said the Government is "investing in safety improvements across the entire state highway network to save hundreds of lives". Source: 1 NEWS