Tauranga continues to aspire to the title of mini-Auckland with an announcement from the government on Friday of $520 million for another motorway into the city, the 6.8km Tauranga Northern Link. The funding even includes a money set aside for a future extension of the to be built motorway a further 6km+ to Omokoroa.

Tauranga Northern Link Map

Transport Minister Simon Bridges today announced a $520 million roading package that will transform State Highway 2 (SH2) between Tauranga and Waihi.

The package includes:

  • The $286 million Tauranga Northern Link (TNL).
  • $85 million worth of safety improvements designed to reduce death and serious injury crashes.
  • Up to $150 million to provide for future traffic growth, paving the way for an upgrade between Omokoroa and Te Puna.

“This is a significant transport investment for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty area. It will improve safety, reduce congestion and support growth on what is a very busy route, making a noticeable difference for motorists and easing freight movement,” Mr Bridges says.

“It is yet another example of the Government’s focus on increasing economic growth and improving safety through transport investment.

“We know that transport is an enabler of economic activity so we need to continue unlocking key congestion points to get people and freight moving efficiently around the country.”

The TNL is a new 6.8 km highway which will connect Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 Te Puna.

“The TNL is a long awaited project in the Tauranga community. Last week I attended a public meeting to hear the views of local people and it’s clear there’s a lot of support for getting this project underway.

“Once complete it will reduce traffic through the busy townships of Bethlehem and Te Puna, provide a better commute into the city, and support the Western Bay’s many industries.

“Today I’m also announcing that $150 million has been earmarked for a future extension of the TNL. A business case for extending the TNL from Te Puna to Omokoroa is expected to be completed toward the middle of next decade.

“All up this means the TNL will provide a four lane highway linking Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 at Omokoroa,” Mr Bridges says.

The project isn’t exactly new and a quick search finds it has been around in some form since the early 1990’s and was designated in 2001 so at least the project wasn’t just pulled out of thin air like the Puhoi to Warkworth project was. What surprised me the most about the announcement was the timing. I’ve seen discussion of the project before but it hasn’t been listed in various documents as happening at least within the next few years. It’s not even a project listed on the Bay of Plenty section of the NZTA website.

The daily traffic volumes at the western end of the project at Te Puna are shown below and the road is obviously busier once it gets closer to Tauranga – such as around Bethlehem. They’ve definitely taken a sharp upwards turn in recent years and given Tauranga’s plans to open up more development, especially around Omokoroa I suspect those volumes will increase.

Te Puna Traffic Volumes

While the announcement has been made now, the press release mentions construction won’t actually start till 2018 and the extension obviously some time later. As there’s already a designation the focus till then will be on design but it raises the question of why make such a public statement about it now? The funding for the as yet un-assessed extension also highlights the dramatic difference in playing field that exists with transport in NZ. Public transport, walking/cycling and even local road projects seem to have to jump through huge hoops to get funding but for state highways the cash is handed out without question.

The $436 million for those two bits of motorway can be added to some of the recently completed and currently under construction projects around Tauranga. This includes the $455 million Tauranga Eastern Link, the currently under construction $102 million to grade separate sections of SH2 through Bayfair and the $45 million to build an underpass at Maungatapu. There’s also the $62 million the NZTA recently spent to buy the failing Takitimu Dr (Route K) toll road off the Tauranga City Council.

The one aspect I do think is very good about the announcement is the significant amount of money going towards safety improvements between Te Puna and Waihi. One of the improvements already made a few years ago inspired me to write this post about how we need to see more focus on improving safety and so $85 million is likely to have significant benefits. The map below shows where the focus of that spending will be

Tauranga-Waihi SH2 Full Corridor Map

And this one focuses just on the Te Puna to Omokoroa section

Tauranga - Omokoroa to Te Puna Safety Improvements Map

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  1. LOL! Cars and Cameron Road. Tauranga is broken by design for cars and ideal in many ways for public transport.

    Though a better road from / to the north would be good….provided they aren’t all heading into the parts of Tauranga already choked by cars.

    1. Yep give me a train option anyday. Even if the car travel time to Tauranga gets down to say 2 h that’s still wasted time. Half a day there and back with nothing productive to show for it. It’s crazy that flying can be justified for a journey this short in a developed country.

  2. Part of that press release has to be an error: “Today I’m also announcing that $150 million has been earmarked for a future extension of the TNL. A business case for extending the TNL from Te Puna to Omokoroa is expected to be completed toward the middle of next decade”. How are you earmarking funding for it if the business case isn’t even being done for another decade?

    1. “How are you earmarking funding for it if the business case isn’t even being done for another decade?”

      Easy. First they decide that they want it. Then they construct a business case to show that it is justified. And if perchance the business case doesn’t show what they want, they simply add in random “Wider Economic Benefits” until it gets over the line.

      It’s not rocket science. In fact it’s not any sort of science. It is complete and utter nonscience.

  3. Call me cynical but last week after Omokaroa residents called a public meeting which the Minister attended he suddenly whips this out of his hat.
    Not that I disagree with it as SH2 is not much better than a goat track but it is all about the PORT.
    The govt is doing all it can to put Auckland port out of business and that has meant they have had to put in all the new roads to get the thousands of trucks into and out of the port. Tauranga Port is not Unionised.
    Would have been far better spent on upgrading the rail but with a govt pro truck and anti rail roads will win everytime.

    1. “SH2 is not much better than a goat track” Haha, same with many of our SH’s. Really there should be 100s of kms of divided highways and 100s tunnels all over the NI. Like they have in other industrialised hilly countries, like Italy or Japan. Meanwhile our train tracks are even worse, by comparison (Italy and Japan have 300 k trains and they’re not even the fastest).

      So the issue is how we prioritise making some of them (roads and rails) better than that. I’m not sure I but the port theory (or conspiracy). The safety component of this project (or series of projects) is good. But then again so is the safety component of taking cars (and trucks) off the road altogether, and putting them on trains.

      I wouldn’t really mind what gets built when, if only I could trust the rigour of the process. Goes without saying that process has to rank modes on a level playing field.

        1. The Waikato expressway is the NZTA preferred route for heavy vehicles between Auckland and Tauranga, while helps with the justification for the work on this route. Truck drivers prefer the SH2 route as it is shorter and avoids the Kaimai ranges which makes cheaper and more environmentally friendly route as less diesel is used.

      1. Never ceases to amaze me when someone bereft of a logical explanation pulls out the hoary old chestnut (conspiracy) Quote, I’m not sure I but the port theory (or conspiracy).

        For your information The Port Authority, the local press and all the local politicians when addressing any public meeting STRESS the importance of the roading infrastructure down here is to keep the port moving.

        No conspiracy TheBigWheel very factual local knowledge.

  4. So 250 million, for something which on that first map looks like just a tiny stretch of road.

    How much trains & tracks can we get for that money?

    I remember reading a post about trains to Tauranga here a while ago → and here it is: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2014/05/14/another-look-at-intercity-rail/

    For an initial outlay of $45 million we could have brand new trains running every hour all day between Hamilton and Auckland, plus morning and evening trains to and from Tauranga and Mt Maunganui. These trains would serve simple, but functional stations at a dozen towns in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, plus Auckland, central Hamilton, the Tauranga CBD, and Mt Maunganui. Compared to what we spend on intercity highways and suburban motorways, $45 million ain’t much capital to outlay on a system connecting half the population of the country.

    $45 million — that can’t be right?

      1. Actually if you read the post the opex estimate was about $7m a year. $45m is the capex cost for buying fleet and a basic upgrade of some stations.

        This assumes no changes to tracks and signalling, and relies on other works in Auckland to operate (CRL and third main).

        1. Not forgetting that passing loops are already being planned / built on the Hamilton – Tga line.

    1. To do it properly it would take

      1.2 billion to electify to Tauranga and double track except for deviation plus track upgrades for higher speeds plus the trains.

      680 million to do the third main and a fourth main from wiri to Westfield to allow the services to not get caught up in commuter train traffic.

      Of course this would massively increase capacity of rail freight + would allow easy upgrades to create future Waikato and BOP commuter networks

      Meanwhile RONS 2.8 for expressway, 1 billion for BOP motorways, 1.8 billion for east west link, 1 billion of other upgrades to sh1 in Auckland

      Would have been a bargain really.

  5. Half the amount of money could have relaid the railway to Katikati and established a series of park ‘n rides along it, removing thousands of cars from the road into Tauranga each day. That’s the sort of comparitive analysis NZTA should be doing when evaluating transport projects. All evaluations should not assume the mode with the problem in the first place is the best one there is to achieve the desired outcome.

    1. ” All evaluations should not assume the mode with the problem in the first place is the best one there is to achieve the desired outcome.”


      This exactly the error which govt and NZTA make. They work on the basis that the solution is always better roads, even if the problem is that road is not the best way to meet a particular transport need in the first place.

    2. I was thinking when writing the post – at what point in Tauranga/Western BOP growth does relaying that line become viable. Imagine not any time soon and looks like some of the corridor has been sold off/developed over too.

    3. Maybe if they got a decent bus service first between Katikati/Omokoroa and Tauranga. Start with the quick and low cost options, then build up.

  6. This looks very good. Unlike Auckland, Tauranga roads are being built as population grows rather than once it is too late.

      1. Absolutely totally agree. Anyone who does anything anywhere can see the benefits of having hundreds of millions spent on the thing they do.

  7. Bloody el guys, Think Rail networks. Its already there. Just needs Track laid down again. Bridges rebuilt & maybe the odd tunnel refurbished so to be able to use the new larger freight train etc. Tauranga to Kaitikati, Waihi, Waikino, Karangahake, Paeroa to Te aroha, Morinsville, Hamilton or Thames. The Motor Car is DEAD. Lets look at our Home Land…well i’ve got Scottish & Irish in me so…all you English folk. England is bringing back their old disused lines. And don’t they look a picture. Quant Villages & stations, beautiful scenery to boast. New Zealand has something to boast about as well. Good Luck.

  8. Looks like SH2 is becoming the preferred route into Tauranga from the north rather than the road over the Kaimais which makes a lot of sense. I used to do the run every other week, going one way and coming back the other, and SH2 was by far the easier route. With very little extra earthworks, the highway could be three laned most of the way with continuous passing lanes swapping from side to side every couple of kilometres, much as the Australia’s Pacific Highway from Eden to Illawarra does – or used to when I was there in 2000. The only major works that I could foresee would be a by-pass around the Karangahake Gorge (the Athenree Gorge has already largely been done) and possible by-passes around the towns.

  9. TNL used to be known as Route M passing under Cambridge road and linking in with Route K and on to Takatimu Drive. Two years ago it was announced that it had been taken of the waiting list and postponed indefinitely. Meantime the road crashes deaths and traffic congestion between Waihi and Bethlehem (SH2) continue to mount. It was meant to be started around 2008 having being conceived in the mid 1990’s as this article suggests.

    What tends to get over looked is that for some time TGA has NZ’s busiest port (in other words it has big benefits for our national economy) with dairy exports (Waikato based/processed), Kiwifruit, avocados (mostly local) and logs (Taupo to Opotiki) to name but a few. To facilitate this nationally significant port it is all about having effective road connections as a huge amount of this extra traffic is from trucks and is directly port related making this supporting roading network it a definite “Road of National Significance” and therefore something that no Tauranga locals should have to apologise for to the rest of the country. Just maybe… Simon Bridges is actually earning the right to be our local MP as well as Minister of Transport.

  10. Driving from Auckland to Tauranga is almost like going to Australia thanks to their road, safety improvements are definitely needed there.

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