Since December, four people have died on a risky stretch of highway between Waihi and Tauranga. About 20 others lost their lives there between 2010 and 2017.
It’s one of New Zealand’s deadliest stretches of road – if not the deadliest – and locals say they are fed up it’s not more prominent in the Government’s $16.9 billion land transport programme that was announced on Friday.
“There are a number of people who aren’t happy for their children to be driving this road as they learn to drive, and there are a number of adults as well who are apprehensive about driving these stretches of road that aren’t really fit for purpose,” Matthew Farrell of local lobby group Fix the Bloody Road told TVNZ1’s Breakfast today.
“They’re too narrow. They don’t have an adequate shoulder, there’s no median barrier, there are large sections with no Armco – ditches, banks, blind crests and summits, tight bends, you name it,” he said. “This road is two generations old, and it’s showing the signs of that now.”
The sometimes one-lane road, which sees roughly 30,000 vehicles per day and is covered by volunteer emergency responders, was described by Farrell as “absolutely chaotic”.
The road did have $80 million allocated to it earlier this year, and the Government included that previous allocation in last week’s announcement. But that project starts at the Waihi end, which doesn’t provide a quick fix to a problem that needs urgent attention, Mr Farrell argued.
“The real issue is obviously at the Tauranga end, and particularly the Katikati-Tauranga stretch is really the devily one,” he explained. “You’re eight times more likely to die in Te Puna or Apata than you are on a typical stretch of highway elsewhere in the country.”
In 2016, it was estimated that it would cost $520 million for the entire Waihi-Tauranga highway project, but land, material and construction costs have all gone through the roof since then, Fix the Bloody Road points out.
“We welcome the investment around the country for the other regions, but we just think that the deadliest road should have been the top priority – not ‘come back to us in six months'”, Farrell said. “We don’t care which colour the party is that does it – something needs to happen on this road, very soon.”
The NZ Transport Agency is continuing to carefully review the plans for the SH2 Waihi to Tauranga route, to evaluate if it aligns with the new vision for the transport network.