It was a haunting accident scene – a vehicle wedged beneath the cab of a big transporter and both engulfed in flames. And another statistic, another life lost to the notorious SH2 between Tauranga and Katikati.
It’s against this tragic background that protestors will stop traffic at the Wairoa Bridge mid-afternoon this Sunday, September 16 to press for an upgrade of SH2 – they’ll be crying out for dual carriageways and a median to stop the accidents; to stop the deaths.
“I was consumed by sadness yet again – that was my first reaction when I heard about Monday evening’s smash,” says Andrew Hollis, a key player in the ‘Fix the Bloody Road’ group. “Then I felt outrage that it has got this far, that so many people are dying on this road. It’s always horrible and social media goes crazy.”
Through the group, Andrew claims to have his finger on a lot of pulses these days. And he says the way he felt about the latest accident was exactly how the community felt about it. Sadness and outrage.
Andrew and his group will have at least 500 people on the Wairoa Bridge Sunday afternoon at 3pm. “But after 200 people turned out to last Sunday’s meeting to outline the protest plans, I would like a whole lot more than 500 because our support base is a lot bigger than that.”
By blocking the bridge to motorists on a busy Sunday afternoon, isn’t the ‘Fix the Bloody Road’ group in danger of alienating the very people whose interests they are working for, and wanting support from?
“That was a big deal to us,” says Andrew. “Because we are protesting SH2 specifically we needed to protest on the road at some point. We decided on a Sunday because people tend to make voluntary trips rather than compulsory work journeys.”
And they’re heavily publicising the event so people can adjust their travel plans. They also have professional traffic management on hand so emergency vehicles can get across the bridge during the protest. “Minimise the inconvenience and maximise the publicity for people to make other plans on a day when it should be easy to do.”
Later on Sunday afternoon the SH2 issue will come under the gaze of the politicians. A public meeting to discuss SH2 will be held at the Omokoroa Settlers Hall from 4.30pm. It’s been organised by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and National transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross.
“This is New Zealand’s deadliest stretch of state highway, yet somehow it doesn’t seem to be a priority for the government,” says Todd. “How many more accidents do we need to see?”
The MP says the community has waited patiently for this road for many years, and just as work was about to commence Labour pulled the plug.