Weekend traffic chaos in Petone as shoppers flock to Kmart
At 6pm on a cold, wet Queen's Birthday Monday, traffic near Kmart Petone is backed up in all directions.
Petone's latest big box retailer opened on Thursday morning, causing congestion over the long weekend.
Locals were asking whether the congestion was temporary as drivers got used to new traffic lights and road layout, or was it the new norm?
Business owner Darren Henderson said the congestion was "a nightmare".
Henderson runs a Hutt Rd business just north of Kmart and with traffic regularly blocked both ways, access had become a big problem.
"It is a nightmare, someone will get hurt. There is just no doubt it."
Long queues of traffic were forming in both directions and it would be frustrating for early morning commuters, he said.
He wanted the council to look at the sequencing of the lights and the layout of the road.
When the new lights were put in, the council's traffic assets manager Damon Simmons expressed confidence.
"This upgrade will allow safe access to and from the new Kmart store when it opens as well as significantly improving traffic management and safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, in this area of Hutt Road," he said last month.
He noted, that the council would act if congestion became a problem.
"Adjustments will be made as required to optimise traffic flows," he has said.
When spoken to this week, Simmons put the congestion down to bad weather and the novelty of a new store.
Simmons said it would be "premature" to judge the performance of the new intersection after five days.
"In the meantime, traffic flows at the new intersection are being monitored, and the signals adjusted, to manage flows."
Last week, the council announced a review of parking throughout Petone.
Petone markets itself as a main street with a wide range of small shops and cafes.
Recent new businesses include Bunnings, Briscoes and Rebel Sport, and a soon-to-be Palmers.
Increasingly, it is becoming a home for big box retailers and finding a park to drop into a cafe for a park is not easy.
Kmart provides 255 carparks, but over the long weekend that was still not enough, and neighbouring businesses spent the weekend watching people fight for a park.
Andrew Smith, who runs a car yard, was confident it would settle down in time.
The new store was bringing a huge number of new visitors to Petone and he hoped it would lead to added business.
Across the road at a local waterproofing business, staff appeared bemused.
One staff member described it as a "horrendous" weekend and Herman Otineru said the congestion was unbelievable.
"It made for some good viewing, seeing all the traffic… it was crazy, there was no carparking and people tried to steal our parks."
Next door at an car parts dealer, manager Steve Bain was hoping for an improvement after a difficult few days.
"Over some parts of the weekend it was just chaos, there was mayhem."
A staff member told him that on Saturday night at 10.30pm there were still long queues.
The new lights proved a hot topic on social media, with most people calling for quick action.
Kmart declined to comment.
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