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'Catastrophic': Motorists livid over traffic delays on major state highway

Carmen Hall,
Publish Date
Sat, 10 Feb 2024, 9:06AM

'Catastrophic': Motorists livid over traffic delays on major state highway

Carmen Hall,
Publish Date
Sat, 10 Feb 2024, 9:06AM

Angry motorists have lashed out at lengthy traffic delays on a major arterial route into Tauranga with one commuter describing the situation as an “absolute joke”. 

People have complained of missing flights or being late to specialist appointments as a result of the congestion on State Highway 2 leading into the city, while another commuter has witnessed countless instances of “risk-taking” by frustrated motorists. 

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi has acknowledged the significant delays were causing frustration and thanked motorists for their patience. 

More than 6000 vehicles per day had been added to the Waihī to Tauranga corridor in the past decade and traffic had increased in recent weeks as students went back to school and people returned to work. 

Planned maintenance and operation works had also started which was expected to finished by next month. 

Waihī business owner Shaun Madsen said, in his view, the delays on SH2 were “an absolute joke”. 

He owned a small engineering firm and avoided travelling to Tauranga and no longer bought supplies from city companies. 

“Those businesses have done nothing wrong but the logistics are too difficult. It is just too stressful and too hard to make timeframes. It is easier to go to Hamilton or Auckland for supplies. 

He used to travel to Tauranga weekly but now travelled to the city about once every three months. 

Madsen said in his opinion: “The roadworks are a joke, the speed limits or the safety improvements are a joke ... and it’s an absolute joke that the first priority hasn’t been to improve the intersection at Omokoroa, which is the most dangerous part of the road, and to improve traffic flow into Te Puna.” 

A Waihi resident, who spoke on the condition he remained anonymous, said a trip to Tauranga last week took 2.5 hours causing him to miss a flight – despite allowing 90 minutes for the journey. 

“It was absolutely chaotic and turned a simple logistic issue into a nightmare of rebooking air flights and cancelling other arrangements. It was 30C heat that day. 

“The tarseal was melting as the car crawled along... the cars were filthy with it.” 

Another Waihī woman who asked not to be named said she spent more than three hours in traffic and was late to a specialist appointment in Tauranga on Thursday last week. 

She had to keep the air conditioning on, which used up a lot of fuel, and people were getting out of their cars due to the heat. One elderly man looked “terrible”. 

“It was catastrophic.” 

Austine Ferwin said her longest return trip from Katikati to Tauranga was close to two hours. 

“It’s exasperating.” 

She travelled the route to take her daughter to and from school which was a 37km trip each way. 

“It doesn’t seem like a great distance, but it can become gridlocked very, very quickly and often for no apparent reason. I’ve been caught in roadworks mostly, and people’s inability to merge, either at Te Puna, or the entry into Bethlehem from the Te Puna side. 

“I have witnessed countless instances of driver frustration and risk-taking”. 

There are major delays because of roadworks on State Highway 2, as seen yesterday. Photo / Alex CairnsThere are major delays because of roadworks on State Highway 2, as seen yesterday. Photo / Alex Cairns 


Another motorist who travelled daily from Whakamarama to Tauranga said the 20km drive could take 20 minutes at night or 90 minutes if they left at 7am for an 8.30am work start. 

“Sometimes it’s two hours and sometimes even more. When driving to work one day I filmed a man on crutches walking faster than the traffic... We all know the traffic is awful... I definitely noticed a drastic change around six years ago when the Ōmokoroa subdivisions were completed.” 

National Road Carriers Association policy and advocacy general manager James Smith said the organisation had not received any specific complaints from members regarding SH2. 

An NZTA Waka Kotahi spokeswoman acknowledged the delays were causing frustration and said more than 6000 vehicles per day had been added to the Waihī to Tauranga corridor in the past 10 years. 

“We recognise that frustration can lead to poor behaviours and given that this corridor has a poor safety record, which leads to deaths and serious injuries, we are proud to introduce safety features that will ensure more people get to their destinations safely.” 

It was a sensitive piece of road and any work near or on this road was seeing changes in traffic flow, she said. 

“The pressure on this road has been felt for some time and congestion is in line with the growth of the area. From what was once a rural road passing through a few settlements, SH2 has developed into a busy commuter and freight route.” 

In recent weeks, students had also started back at school and many people are returning to work as their summer break ended, she said. 

There are planned maintenance and operation works to keep the corridor in good condition, and project-specific works for the Waihī to Ōmokoroa and the Takitimu North Link. 

Roadworks pictured yesterday on State Highway 2. Photo / Alex CairnsRoadworks pictured yesterday on State Highway 2. Photo / Alex Cairns 

Maintenance work should be finished by mid-March depending on the weather but the project works were ongoing. 

“This summer sees an unprecedented level of activity on the state highway network across the motu. Unfortunately, we can only fix road surfaces during the warmer, drier months of the year, but it’s critical we maintain the roads to ensure a smooth and safer journey for everyone all year long.” 

She said NZTA was well into construction of the new Takitimu North Link project highway (Te Puna to Tauranga), which would alleviate the demands on the corridor. 

“We know it’s a very busy time right now and we thank people for their patience.” 

NZTA timesaving advice for motorists 

  • Work from home if possible. 
  • Allow plenty of time, and try to avoid peak travel times (typically between 7-10am for this corridor at this time of the year). 
  • It’s also worth considering if you really need to travel . 
  • It appreciates driving this route is a necessity for many people and any delay causes frustration. Source NZTA 

Carmen Hall is a news director for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, covering business and general news. She has been a Voyager Media Awards winner and a journalist for 25 years. 


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