Mayor 'almost begging' to fix NZ's most dangerous road
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A 27-year-old Western Bay man is the latest crash victim on a dangerous and "unforgiving" stretch of road, prompting renewed calls to fast-track safety improvements.
The man died at the scene and three others were taken to Tauranga Hospital with serious injuries following the crash on the first of the Apata Curves between Katikati and Tauranga on State Highway 2.
The Serious Crash Unit was investigating.
''How many more crosses will it take? Too many people are dying,'' nearby Whakamarama resident and Western Bay District councillor Peter Mackay said.
Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber said the crash proved it was the most dangerous road in New Zealand.
''We are almost at the begging stage ... we can't let this continue. It is hard to understand why successive Governments can't get it higher up the list.''
Webber said the next round of safety improvements needed to start forthwith, whereas the four-laning all the way to Katikati would be icing on the cake.
''What is driving us is safety, That is why we are desperately wanting an appointment with Transport Minister Phil Twyford.''
The impact of the crash between a car and a van at 11.30pm on Saturday night was heard by neighbours, with Mackay among the residents further afield alerted by the noise and sight of a rescue helicopter from Whitianga probing with searchlights for a safe place to land.
Police markings yesterday showed the path taken by the car as it was being driven towards Tauranga. Crash debris and a solitary cap on the side of the road marked the crash scene.
Volunteers from the Omokoroa Fire Brigade spotted a third car barely visible down the bank next to crash scene. It turned out to be an unrecovered car from a 2015 crash.
Fire Service rescue tenders from Katikati and Tauranga also turned out to the crash, with traffic diverted around Wainui South Rd and Esdaile Rd for more than two hours.
One resident who overlooked the crash scene believed wire cables that separated oncoming lanes of traffic further around on the Katikati side of the intersection with Turner Rd had prevented head-on crashes.
But there was no barrier at the point where Saturday's crash occurred - something Mackay would like to see remedied.
He said the combination of a slight camber on the bend and a brief shower of rain on a dry road contributed to the crash.
''The road is unforgiving if you make a minor error of judgment.''
Mackay said it did not matter who was running the country, people would continue to die until the road was upgraded to meet the volume of traffic.
''Families are grieving. The worst thing from my point of view was that there will be more deaths.''
He said the Apata Curves were the most dangerous section of a dangerous stretch of highway from Tauranga to Katikati. He said the centre line cables further around the bend had prevented five potential head-on crashes.
The Bay of Plenty's regional transport chairman, Stuart Crosby, said the regional land transport committee was in the process of updating its transport plan for 2018-21.
''There is absolutely no doubt that the Te Puna to Katikati safety improvements will be a high priority.''
The general consensus was that the safety improvements were needed irrespective of whether SH2 was four-laned from Omokoroa to Katikati. This was because of the long time lag for a project of that size.
''The improvements can be done relatively quickly.''
Crosby said he continued to be frustrated at the unbelievably long time it took to deliver new roads.
State Highway 2:
There were 18 deaths, 35 serious injuries, 95 minor injury crashes on State Highway 2 between Tauranga and Katikati from 2012 to 2016.
That is the highest death toll of state highways listed by the NZ Transport Agency as the country's most dangerous.
-Bay of Plenty Times