Ventia project manager Jashneet Prasad is appealing to drivers to be patient and not to take their frustration out on workers. Photo / Jenny Ling
Violent and dangerous behaviour, dozens of complaints, and mean-spirited rumours – the first few days of roadworks at Kerikeri Rd have riled some residents in the Far North.
Police were called on the first day
of roadworks after irate motorists threw road cones at workers and drove through the 550-metre section of closed-off road which is being rebuilt and resurfaced from outside the Old Packhouse Market to the Maraenui Rd intersection.
Frontline workers have also experienced insults and abuse, prompting calls for patience while the $1.2 million project is being carried out.
Ventia project manager Jashneet Prasad said Tuesday’s dramas were caused after workers had to turn back motorists heading out of town, despite weeks of notifications about the closure via letter drops, the Northern Advocate, and the Far North District Council’s website.
“We were turning people around at Maraenui Rd and some decided to drive through.
“There were cones in the middle, and they got out and threw them toward our guys and sped through our site. Some of us had to jump out of the way.
“They put themselves at risk and are putting us at risk as well.”
By Wednesday, things had calmed down a bit, Prasad said.
But he appealed to drivers to be patient and to not take their frustrations out on workers.
“Just be patient and follow the road rules – there’s a short detour.
“We’re just doing our job.
“People always complain that the roads are not good, and when we’re building the road, now they’re moaning as well.
“What do you want us to do?”
Police confirmed they attended an incident on Kerikeri Rd on October 25.
“They have spoken to those involved and there were no further issues,” a spokeswoman said.
“We would ask motorists to be patient and, if anyone sees anything of concern happening now, to contact police on 111. Information can be reported after the fact via 105.”
While roadworks are being carried out, Kerikeri Rd is closed to traffic heading out of town, meaning motorists have to detour along Waipapa Rd via the bypass – usually a 20-minute detour.
The lane for traffic coming into Kerikeri from State Highway 10 is still open.
The work is expected to be finished on November 18.
With around three weeks to go, residents and business owners trying to get around without using the Far North’s busiest road are already at their wits’ end.
Many have taken to social media to express their frustrations at traffic which is backed up from the bypass back into Kerikeri township at peak times, making the detour a lot longer.
Kerikeri Laundry Services owner Michelle Poole is one of many business owners affected.
She normally picks up laundry from Kerikeri Park Lodge and Kauri Park Motel daily, “but we can’t get up there to pick it up”.
“We’re relying on them to drop it off. It’s all right for them to drop it off, but they’re having to go back along Waipapa Rd, ’round the long way.
“And it’s quite busy at the moment.
“We’re working out a system which is kind-of working, but we’ve got three weeks to go yet. It’s only just started.”
Jane Hall, manager of Keri Berries – near where the roadworks are taking place – said she understands the project has to happen, but the dust and lack of customers have affected business.
Business has dropped 75 per cent since the start of the roadworks, she said.
They have had to cut the hours of part-time staff, and reduce business hours from 8.30am to 5pm, to 10am to 2pm.
“We’re going to have to cut staff hours. We’re going to have to cut business hours.
“The dust is really bad for us, as well.
“We’ve had to put a quarter of our stock away in the shed; there are beautiful linens and other items that will get ruined.”
But Prasad said this was the best time of the year to complete roadworks as it is early in the season, which means the busy Christmas and New Year period can be avoided.
“That’s why we want to get in there and get it done.”
Old Packhouse Market owner Judy Hyland has taken to social media to quash rumours that her business is responsible for the roadworks outside their property.
The main rehabilitation works are completely separate to a slip lane that is being constructed to improve safety for pedestrians and traffic accessing the market.
The latter project is privately funded by the market owners at a cost of $100,000.
However, the two jobs are using the same contractor and taking place at the same time to allow a seamless road connection and reduce disruption.
“It made sense to do our job at the same time as the resurfacing, so all parties are working together to do it all in one hit,” Hyland said.
Roading contractors will ensure visitors have clear access to the Old Packhouse Market and other Kerikeri Rd businesses.
Northland Transportation Alliance general manager Calvin Thomas said the impact on businesses was a key consideration when designing traffic control measures for the project.
He urged residents and visitors to continue supporting local businesses.
“Please tell traffic controllers which business or property you want to visit, and they will ensure you get to your destination and out again as quickly as possible.”