The story of the Bayfair underpass revival

Philip Brown helped create the Bayfair Underpass Alliance, which sparked a movement that lead to the underground pathway staying for good. Photo: John Borren.

With the Bayfair underpass – which runs under State Highway 2 – now open to the public for use, The Weekend Sun caught up with one group which worked hard work to make sure it went ahead as part of the new configuration at the Bayfair roundabout on the Baylink Project.

When Philip Brown started the Bayfair Underpass Alliance in 2019, the groups trying to captivate the attention of those who could bring the Bayfair underpass back were fragmented.

Philip saw the Bayfair underpass as hugely important, as there was nothing similar set to replace it. So he set out to bring the groups together, to be named under one movement.

Philip Brown. Photo: John Borren.

“If you look at the area, it was and still is the only safe pedestrian crossing,” says Philip.

“We could all see that cycling and pedestrian flow was going to become more important in the future. Add mobility scooters and school children in to the mix and it’s even more important.

“When I first heard of the underpass being taken away I thought to myself: ‘That’s a pretty silly idea’, so I talked to all of the groups had been trying for a long time to keep it there, and we formed the Bayfair Underpass Alliance.”

Philip and the alliance played an integral role in keeping the underpass and tried several outlets to make their voices heard.

“We worked every angle. We worked with national politicians, the Ministry of Transport, chairman of the New Zealand Travel Association, we got help from the mayors of Tauranga, we effectively went everywhere we could and said ‘we should have an underpass, it’s so logical we shouldn’t even have to think about it’.

The demonstration that the Bayfair Underpass Alliance held in August 2019. Photo: Daniel Hines.

 

“The process went on for well over a year. It went on and on. We had letters going, many meetings with the New Zealand Transport Agency [Waka Kotahi], and it all culminated in a large demonstration we had.

“There was about 1500 people on the site of where the old underpass was one Sunday afternoon making their voices heard, and that was very well supported.

“This event probably swayed the decision to remove it. In fact, we got a letter from Green MP Julie Anne Genter, and she said it was the public outpour that ended up making them keep it.

“It was great to hear that they were going to keep it around, but it seemed like an absolute waste of everyone’s time for all involved.

“It was something that should have never been taken away. I heard initially that it was being taken away because of crime reports.

“That was true for about a six-month period, but they put a security camera in as a preventative and that seemed to work. I don’t believe that was a valid enough reason to try to get rid of it.

“It was a huge sigh of relief honestly. We could all go back to our daytime activities.

“It’s safe for not only pedestrians, but it’s also becoming an integral part of the cycling network.

Recent reports suggest there are still improvements to be made, particularly around cyclists biking through at speed around pedestrians.  “Off the top of my head, the old underpass had a steel bar that separated cyclists.

“The new underpass may have a problem with the cyclists, but it is something that can be fixed if it is well managed. They have handled problems with the underpass well in the past, so they can get back to that in the future.”

When asked about future endeavours, Philip suggested the Omokoroa cycle track was on his radar, but he will leave it to others to fight that battle.  “Bayfair Underpass Alliance has pretty much closed up now. It’s done its business. We still keep in touch but we’ve all spread out wings now.”

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