Western bay drivers still waiting for improvements on sh2 north of tauranga – nz herald normalization in database

When early european pioneers arrived in the bay of plenty in the late 1800s, historians tell us they traversed the countryside from tauranga to katikati with horse and cart. Roads were non-existent. Settlers would’ve used the sea as their highway, or crossed the wairoa river and nine other streams or rivers on foot or horseback in the pre-bridge era. An early path was replaced by the old highway, evidence of which can still be seen in the placement of old power lines, mainly on the left side of the road, according to historian debbie mccauley (www.Tauranga.Kete.Net.Nz).

Designing roads and deciding how to fund them has been contentious in the bay for more than a century.Tauranga katikati the newly-formed tauranga highway board in 1871 provoked outrage from homeowners after it proposed levying rates, starting at sixpence per acre for roads, according to the book A history of tauranga county by evelyn stokes.

The board was abolished and re-established five months later. Stokes wrote even in such a small community, it was difficult to reconcile regional conflicts of interests.

"These were exacerbated by inadequate funds for the work that was needed. The travelling reporter for the new zealand herald commented, "keeping all the roads in proper repair is a task beyond the local road boards. The main roads should all be kept in order by the provincial or general government."

Star road

Later, stokes wrote katikati settlers were anxious to establish road connections on their block, "… and there was a good deal of complaining that the roads and bridges promised by the government had not been built".

One of the most urgently needed roads in the district was the route between tauranga and katikati. In 1872, a bridle track stretched as far as aongatete. Work began on the road in late 1875. "It was not until november 1882 that the mail coach made the complete journey from thames to tauranga in just under 12 hours," wrote stokes. The road was described as "monotonously uninteresting, ill-laid out, little more than a mud track …" accidents were "not infrequent".Star road

The depression of the 1880s, according to stokes, saw the government trying to reduce the national debt by cutting subsidies to local authorities for public works. The bay of plenty times summed up local attitudes in 1899:

"It is a matter of common justice to this district, whose expansion has in the past been curtailed by various difficulties, that the main arteries through which should flow the lifeblood of its commerce, should be opened and kept open, but the niggardliness with which the funds of the state have been doled out, in the past, to the bay of plenty has prevented this being done …".

By the 1920s, a good trip from waihi to tauranga took three hours, but motor vehicles were often bogged down in mud, "…and channels dug out and manuka branches laid down to get them out.Star road passengers were expected to help push," wrote stokes.

The 1925 speed limit for motor vehicles (other than lorries) was 48 kilometres per hour, reduced to 24km/h at junctions and when passing another vehicle in the opposite direction. In 1933, the county council issued 1528 driver’s licenses.

Today, asphaltic concrete has replaced mud and central government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on road projects in the western bay.

Horsepower has superseded horses; carts consist of car boots, ute beds or mega-tonne truck and trailers like the one I’m riding in on tuesday afternoon from tauranga to katikati and back.

It’s like climbing a ladder, stepping up – way up – into the cab of the big rig keith service drives for tranzliquid.State highway service has travelled this road – state highway 2 – for work the past 12 years.

New zealand transport agency records show average annual daily traffic on the road at te puna in 2005 (the year service started driving the road professionally) was 15,563.

"You’re always watching people on their cell phones, pulling out into gaps they shouldn’t, overtaking you at the end of passing lanes just to be that one car ahead of you instead of being a little more patient."

"See, this idiot has just decided he’s going to pull back in front of me behind a slow car. They don’t give a second thought to the fact that you’re a truck and that you weigh the best part of probably 40 tonnes and not to mention what we’re carrying."

Tauranga katikati

One local man made 20 crosses; another made six. Some crosses say, "fix our road", urging politicians and other decision-makers to prioritise upgrades to SH2.

KiwiRAP, a partnership between the AA and new zealand’s main transport agencies: transit, ministry of transport, ACC, land transport new zealand, and new zealand police, has ranked SH2 between katikati and tauranga the deadliest two-star highway in the country based on statistics from 2012–2016.

The road saw 18 deaths, 35 serious injuries and 95 minor injuries during that period. AA spokesman dylan thomsen said 40 per cent of highways in new zealand are rated two stars, meaning they feature hazards like narrow shoulders, insufficient overtaking opportunities and poorly designed intersections.Tauranga katikati

The designation matters, because a four star road would see half the number of deaths as a three star road, which would see half the number of deaths of a two star road.

"It’s the same drivers driving around new zealand on those roads. If we build those physical features on those roads, we end up with less people injured in crashes and less people killed."

"People travelling that road haven’t changed … but the barrier has been hit more than 100 times. What it means when someone has fallen asleep or been distracted, rather than going head-on into someone else, they’ve hit the barrier and only had a minor injury crash or trip to hospital."

Tauranga katikati

"Miraculously, no one was injured. This incident was repeated on february 22 [another logging truck rolled in bethlehem at moffat road]. On this basis we can expect a trailer unit to flip at that location approximately every two months. Had the tauranga northern link been completed, these incidents are unlikely to have happened."

Rice wrote minister of transport phil twyford but got no response other than a reply stating his email had been passed on to the associate minister of transport.

"And it’ll take all the heavy trucks out of bethlehem, which are pretty unpleasant … we live one kilometre from the main bethlehem roundabout and can hear police and fire sirens when they’re going around.State highway it makes me angry because I think, ‘here we go again’. It’ll be another accident on state highway 2 and no one seems to care about it."

Former long-time tauranga mayor stuart crosby, now a councillor for the bay of plenty regional council and its transport committee chair, insists local leaders have cared about upgrading SH2 for decades.

Crosby said a ‘big-picture’ programme for the state highway network was developed in the early 90s with collaboration from city, regional and district councils and NZTA.

It included elements which have already been implemented such as the second part of the harbour bridge, four-laning of hewletts road, intersection at waihi road, and maunganui road flyover.Star road

"A lot of design work and property purchases happened, and we’ll be pressing hard for that project to eventuate and get up on the priority list."

Crosby said building new roads was complex, time-consuming and frustrating, and local councils have green-lighted new housing developments with the understanding the northern arterial would proceed.

"It’s a long-winded, bureaucratic process that in my view needs to be sped up, particularly in areas like the western bay of plenty where we have high growth and what’s become abundantly clear is despite the planning, growth has exceeded the capacity for NZTA to build or upgrade roads to meet that growth."

State highway

"A lot will happen between now and august. I have a lot of experience in this, and I’m confident transportation matters in the bay of plenty will show an improvement as we move forward."

"While there’s been a tragic number of accidents the last 18-24 months, that crash data will actually assist us in moving these projects up the priority list. It’s a perverse way of looking at it, but that’s the sad reality."

Failing to fix the road could also cost us talent, said crosby, if highly-skilled people decide our region’s roads are too gridlocked or too dangerous to merit moving to the bay.

A press release dated april 2016 said a $520 million roading package would transform SH2 between tauranga and waihi.Tauranga katikati it included $286 million for the TNL; $85m for safety improvements; and up to $150m for future traffic growth, including a possible upgrade between omokoroa and te puna.

"We haven’t gotten any sense from this government that it’s a priority for them in a roading context and I think it should be. The population is growing in the region around 4000 people a year and everyone can see it, they can feel it every day when they attempt to get around the city."

Critics fear the new labour/greens/NZ first coalition government will spend money on cycle ways and passenger rail at the expense of highways. Responding to questions from the bay of plenty times weekend, transport minister phil twyford said via email he understood how strongly residents feel about safety issues on SH2.Tauranga katikati

Minister twyford said while road user fees, including road user charges and fuel excise duty, go into the national land transport fund, the NZTA makes all operational decisions at arms’ length from the government.

"If the bay of plenty regional council prioritises this road in their regional highway programme, there’s every chance NZTA will give it serious consideration."

NZTA director regional relationships parekawhia mclean also said the agency understands concerns about SH2 and is committed to working with communities and key stakeholders.

The first section, waihi to trig road, is expected to begin construction in the middle of 2018.Transport agency it includes improving five intersections, but does not include upgrading the omokoroa intersection with SH2.

"The remainder of the business case will be subject to the government policy statement (GPS) on land transport which guides the transport investment decisions made by the new zealand transport agency … As a result the transport agency cannot comment on the future plans for the remaining transport projects for this section of state highway 2 until we have greater certainty about what the final government policy statement will guide us to invest in and which projects we will deliver to meet the new government priorities."

McLean said earlier signals for emphasis by the minister included prioritising safety, improving access to liveable cities through more investment in public transport, walking and cycling, better environmental outcomes and delivering the best value for money.Star road

Truckie and driver trainer keith service turns the truck and trailer around in katikati and we head south, rumbling over a succession of narrow bridges, spotting non-existent shoulders and three passing areas.

Service has a story for each bend in the road – where someone pulled out from a driveway in front of his truck, causing him to brake hard; another spot where a driver came at him head-on; the time when, at the crest of the hill near omokoroa, two cars passed at once, with one driving in traffic meant for the opposite direction. There’s also the site where two trucks hit head-on at a bridge near plummers point road. "Four lanes would take the pressure off…people think they’ve only got these passing lanes so they’re probably more inclined to take the risk." he contrasts that with the tauranga eastern link. "It’s just a breeze, you go around them, no pressure." we watch a small red car overtake another vehicle heading through the te puna roundabout.State highway

"It’s a road that crawls on peak times and is dangerous all other times. There’s a huge number of accidents and fatalities on that road, so if the government is serious about safety being a driver for their funding, this should be a no-brainer to support."

A group on facebook called fix the BLOODY road – action group has helped gather nearly 7000 signatures on a petition protesting the priority given to upgrading SH2 from katikati to tauranga.

Western bay of plenty district councillor don thwaites shared with the facebook group a message he received from associate transport minister julie anne genter.

She wrote the tauranga northern link project is in the resource consents process, "with indicative construction timeframes expected to be released in the middle of 2018.Star road

Funding has been approved for the pre-implementation and property phases of the programme, and the construction phases will be subject to further approval in line with the national land transport programme. The focus is now on design of the options and acquiring any land the NZTA does not currently own, which can take several years to complete."