The town that finally found itself

BY BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 13:04 16/03/2009

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It has been a long road to victory but Te Awamutu has finally won its seven-year battle for inclusion on State Highway signage from Hamilton.

Waipa District Council has been given the green light by the New Zealand Transport Agency to add Te Awamutu to 24 signs in and around Hamilton city and the airport.

The town has fought since 2002 for the change. The Waikato Times has covered the plight along the way including anecdotal stories of Aucklanders ending up in Cambridge as they looked in vain for signs to Te Awamutu.

Signage only gave Rotorua or Waitomo Caves/New Plymouth as journey destination options.

Repeated requests for changes to the signs to Transit NZ fell on deaf ears. They famously told potential visitors to "use a map".

But Waipa District Council deputy chief executive Garry Dyet has since jumped on board and continued the fight and helped secure the breakthrough.

Last week, Te Awamutu Community Public Relations Organisation chairwoman Katherine O'Regan received the news she had been waiting seven years to hear. NZTA had approved signs around Hamilton city and the airport being changed subject to consultation and approval by other affected parties: Waitomo and Waikato district councils, Hamilton City Council and Environment Waikato.

Signs signalled for change were positioned on State Highways 1, 3 and 21 (Airport Rd), with most situated at the intersection of Lorne St and Ohaupo and Killarney Rds, by Waikato Hospital.

Despite the progress, Ms O'Regan was wary of cracking any champagne bottles just yet, preferring to wait. "Until it's signed off I'm reluctant to get too excited ... but I am absolutely delighted and the way they've gotten around it is by including Waitomo Caves as a tourist destination which is a brown sign, otherwise they can't have any more than two destinations on the one sign."

Current public relations chairman Ian Parlane was less subtle. "It's been a long and frustrating exercise and it's annoying how bureaucracy can impede progress on what would ordinarily be a straightforward process and I hope that no other town would have to go through the heartache that we have had to." He believed it would not have happened without the tenacity of Ms O'Regan.

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- Waikato Times

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