Credit due over clearway U-turn

Last updated 13:00 12/12/2013

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OPINION: It's not every day that the noise from the streets makes it through the dense filter of bureaucratic self-importance.

So this week's major U-turn by the New Zealand Transport Agency over the problematic Tahunanui intersection southbound clearway is worth celebrating - as a victory for people power, traffic safety and common sense.

It also marks an important early tick in the box for the new city council team under Mayor Rachel Reese and her deputy, Paul Matheson, who both campaigned strongly on Tahunanui issues.

Peak time clearways might be popular elsewhere and even capable of reducing bottlenecks, or at least shifting them a few metres down the road. However, the southbound one through the Tahunanui traffic lights has been causing frustration for six years.

An excuse for petrol-heads and stress-junkies to bury the foot in order to gain a few places on the slow haul along State Highway 6, the clearway's passing until December 2017 will be lamented by only a very few. On the other hand, Tahunanui's main shopping area will become a little more pleasant and safe for the next four years at least.

Much heat has been generated about how Victory would be "bisected" - in big picture, neighbourhood terms - by traffic if the often-discussed southern link ever happened. That is the reality Tahunanui lives with now as streams of motorists and heavy trucks pound through, the latter 24/7.

Tahunanui Business Association chairman Mike Thomas hopes a council review of parking and the possibility of a pedestrian "refuge" on the highway near the medical centre will bring further positive changes.

The decision comes four months after a protest march and meeting demanded a change in attitude and greater focus on safety.

Before that, NZTA had been talking up plans to extend the southbound clearway and remove some parks on the highway. A report on the issue was pulled so suddenly that distribution of the council's fortnightly Live Nelson information sheet was abandoned.

Mr Thomas credits the new mayor and council for the change of direction, saying they have been listening, helpful, and things are starting to happen for the suburb. Clearly, a meeting this week involving community and council representatives and NZTA made significant headway.

The council and agency will monitor the road over the next four years. A planned major development by Wakatu Incorporation of the Ocean Lodge site might alter the dynamics in the business district, while the council review of parking in the area is overdue.

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The agency is signalling it expects the lane to return to "general highway use" when the moratorium is up. That is far enough off to come up with a better long term plan for the area.

Meantime, motorists can expect slightly slower travelling at peak times - as is also happening as a consequence of new traffic lights on the other main arterial route to and from the city on Waimea Rd.

It's amazing how often traffic management systems built to enhance traffic flow do exactly the opposite.

- The Nelson Mail

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