Call for bypass to stand alone

The development of Katikati town centre has been hampered by State Highway 2 running through the middle of it.

Katikati Community Board chair Jenny Hobbs says the community doesn’t want the Katikati bypass to get “tangled up” in a debate about roading needs for the wider region.

Her comments follow a petition launched by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane ‘road of national significance’ proceeds as planned by the previous National government.

They are asking Labour to commit to a four-lane motorway from Tauranga to Katikati, a grade separated connection from Omokoroa onto State Highway 2 and the Katikati bypass.

The NZ Transport Agency confirmed the final options for State Highway 2 from Waihi to Tauranga in December last year, including wide centrelines, side barriers and 26 intersection upgrades delivered between Waihi and Omokoroa, a new 7km highway between Omokoroa and Te Puna and a bypass of Katikati.

Jenny says a date for construction of the bypass has yet to be set and the community doesn’t want the project to get “tangled up” in another debate about roading needs for the wider region.

“The bypass has been discussed since 1925, when it was decided there was a need for a road around the town,” she says.

“The bypass has been approved and had funding put alongside it twice in the past, and both times it’s been ripped away like a rug from underneath people’s feet at the last minute.

“There’s a sense of hopelessness in the town about never seeing it.”

Jenny says there is a high social tax on the community from the highway going through the town and the bypass needs to be a stand-alone case.

“For the road to be linked into a wider regional programme and hinge on other projects is very unfair because the community has been waiting such a long time. It needs to be viewed as the most important thing to happen for Katikati to maintain village life.

“We’ve reached the stage where there is so much disruption from the road, any kind of development for a vibrant, friendly town centre is not possible.”

Scott says while NZTA has indicated the bypass will go ahead, it should be part of a whole package.

“The bypass itself is wonderful for the township of Katikati,” says Scott, “but it’s not a silver bullet to the total roading infrastructure challenges that face our region between Katikati and Tauranga, which is why we’ve launched the petition.”

He acknowledges the Katikati bypass is long overdue, however, and says he will be “putting [his] foot to the floor” to make sure it is built as quickly as possible.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the four-laning of the Tauranga to Katikati road was an election promise by National and was never budgeted for.

He says the Katikati bypass and associated safety improvements on State Highway 2 is an existing project which the new government hasn’t altered, and National is “scaremongering” if it is trying to suggest otherwise.