One ring road to rule them

DAVID NICOLL
Last updated 11:54 30/07/2014
 Matamata’s Hobbit-themed i-Site
DAVID NICOLL/Fairfax NZ

PICTURE PERFECT: Moves to change the focus of Matamata’s Hobbit-themed i-Site to the rear of the building have helped traffic issues.

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An influx of Hobbit fans is one of the reasons behind a proposed roading rejig in Matamata's central business district.

But although it won't be a case of one ring road to rule them all, a temporary trial of the changes is expected to ease the burden of an unexpected journey through the town.

MatamataPiako District Council will for a trial period, close off the access to the median strips in the two centre islands on Broadway opposite Hetana St and Waharoa Rd East.

The changes come after the council compiled a report that looked at issues of parking and safety around the Matamata i-Site and Hetana St toilets.

Council communications officer Nicole Nooyen said the area has seen an increase in heavy traffic with a large number of tourists stopping to take photos and visit the i-Site. The council believes the safety of pedestrians will be improved by closing the Hetana St median strip access and eliminating the right hand turn into Hetana St.

"By doing the same to the Waharoa Rd East median access it will address some safety concerns and help eliminate traffic congestion at this turn," Nooyen said. "These changes are subject to New Zealand Transport Agency approval and discussion with surrounding land owners. Once council has approval, a trial date will be set."

Nooyen said it would be a temporary trial and the council would monitor and review the trial before a decision was made as to whether it should be a permanent change.

"The cost of the new changes to Broadway will be reviewed after council has spoken to NZTA and surrounding landowners."

i-Site manager Sue Whiting said she looked forward to the proposed changes.

"We're a hugely busy town now, not only because of the Hobbiton business and the international visitors . . . and with that we need to make some particular changes to the town's street area."

The i-Site had been having problems with tourists taking photos of the building from the road but Whiting said they had made changes to eliminate the problem.

"We changed the focus of the building to the Hetana St carpark and that doesn't seem to be a problem any more for the road."

Visitor numbers to Hobbiton had doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 this year and estimates by the i-Site expect that to rise to 350,000 next year.

David Nicoll is a Wintec journalism student.

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