Blooming success of cherry blossoms causes traffic chaos in Upper Hutt

Last weekend 5000 visitors wanting to see the blooming cherry blossom trees at Mark Rammell’s (pictured) Aston Norwood Cafe and Function Centre caused traffic problems when they began parking up the margins of State Highway 2.
Kevin Stent/Stuff
Last weekend 5000 visitors wanting to see the blooming cherry blossom trees at Mark Rammell’s (pictured) Aston Norwood Cafe and Function Centre caused traffic problems when they began parking up the margins of State Highway 2.

The popularity of 300 cherry trees in full bloom near a busy state highway has forced the transport agency to step in over safety concerns.

More than 5000 people visited the Aston Norwood Cafe & Function Centre’s Japanese-inspired garden last weekend causing chaos along the adjacent State Highway 2 in Upper Hutt.

Aston Norwood owner Mark Rammell said the volume of traffic outside his business caused gridlocks throughout the weekend. Punters began parking along the margins of the roadway up to 500 metres away after the facility’s 270 carparks filled up.

“Last weekend was the perfect storm – Covid restrictions had been lifted and we had good weather.”

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More than 5000 people visited the Aston Norwood Cafe & Function Centre’s Japanese-inspired garden last weekend causing chaos along the adjacent State Highway 2 in Upper Hutt.
Kevin Stent
More than 5000 people visited the Aston Norwood Cafe & Function Centre’s Japanese-inspired garden last weekend causing chaos along the adjacent State Highway 2 in Upper Hutt.

Rammell, and his wife Fiona, planted the former dairy farm 25 years ago and said the bloom had grown in popularity over the last three years. Word of the spectacle had spread through social media.

It wasn’t just selfie hunters, Rammell said – people were dressing themselves and their children up, and bringing professional photographers with them.

This year he’d spoken with a visitor who had flown down from Auckland with his family to see the flowers.

Kim Caro with a cherry blossom cherry at Aston Norwood Cafe and Function Centre in Kaitoke,Upper Hutt, where thousands are flocking to see the trees in flower.
Kevin Stent
Kim Caro with a cherry blossom cherry at Aston Norwood Cafe and Function Centre in Kaitoke,Upper Hutt, where thousands are flocking to see the trees in flower.

The bloom was a special time of year, he said, with the soft pink flowers of Awanui cherry blossoms filling the trees and blanketing the ground.

Mark Owen, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency regional transport systems manager, said the 100kmh limit made parking along the state highway highly unsafe. Last year the annual daily traffic count through the area was 7380 vehicles.

NZTA was working with Aston Norwood to manage the influx of visitors.

Cherry blossoms are proving popular in Upper Hutt.
Kevin Stent
Cherry blossoms are proving popular in Upper Hutt.

No-parking lines would be painted on the road shoulder opposite the business. Off-street parking would be made available and parking marshals would be on-site.

Owen said the increased presence of turning vehicles meant road users should take extra care when travelling along the section of SH2 near Kaitoke.

Mark Rammell said he spoke to one visitor who had flown down from Auckland with his family to see the flowers.
Kevin Stent
Mark Rammell said he spoke to one visitor who had flown down from Auckland with his family to see the flowers.

Rammell said his business had about 7000 visitors since the trees began blooming two weeks ago.

“Safety is a big thing for us, NZTA has been fantastic. People just need to be patient – everyone will get a chance to come through.”

Stuff