16 Feb 2017

Mixed reaction to planned new highway in Wellsford

8:55 pm on 16 February 2017

Could plans for a new highway north of Auckland be the death-knell for the small town of Wellsford?

Funding to extend Auckland's northern highway to Warkworth has been approved, but there seems no progress on the promised Warkworth-Wellsford stretch.

Funding to extend Auckland's northern highway to Warkworth has been approved, but there seems no progress on the promised Warkworth-Wellsford stretch. Photo: Google Maps

An indicative route for a new motorway between Auckland and Northland, which would circumvent the Warkworth, Wellsford and Te Hana town centres, was made public yesterday.

And while that might be music to the ears of holiday makers and commuters, it's got locals in Wellsford worried.

About an hour's drive north from central Auckland along State Highway 1 it's a little town with around 1700 residents recorded in the last census.

Shops, cafes, petrol stations and bakeries line the state highway which runs right through the middle of town.

The main route between Auckland and Whangarei, it brings with it a constant stream of cars and trucks.

Truck driver Bonnie Waiomio said it was a crazy stretch and she had to be extra cautious going through the small towns.

But she said the bypass could put an end to her town visits.

"Every Wednesday I stop here and buy Lotto otherwise I come through here daily because I drive a freight truck. But using the bypass I'd probably stay on the bypass.

Without visitors and through traffic some locals, like Noeline Hay, were worried businesses would suffer.

"The council consider Wellsford a service town, people pass through, we're nothing, we're not a village, we're just a service town. So if they bypass a service town what are we? Like they stop here for fuel, for food, for everything.

"This will be so quiet, businesses will suffer."

Sandra Shaw owns the Wellsford Sports and Leisure shop along the main stretch.

She's a fan of the traffic.

"For example in January I don't see any locals hardly, it's all tourists. So my business relies on the tourists. If they go on the bypass road we'll miss them.

"I think the food places would miss it as well.

"You don't need to have many stop to make it viable to keep operating, but without them I think it will make a big difference."

But Heather Veacock, who works occasionally in the town, said "the sooner they do something the better".

"The road here in Wellsford is considerably busy, in holiday time it's even worse. The amount of large logging trucks and other big trucking companies that use this state highway, the bypass is probably a really good idea."

Local Helen Wright said traffic was a problem.

"I don't like the stock truck and heavy trucks going through and townies go too fast going through the town. You run for your life across the pedestrian crossing."

Tony Holloway lives in Mangawhai but often goes to Wellsford for shopping and the occasional haircut.

"It's far too busy, it's impossible, it's really awful and it's dangerous," Tony said.

The new motorway aims to address those concerns as well as make the way north quicker and safer by straightening the road and bypassing the dangerous stretch through Dome Valley.

Once it's built Transport Agency predicts fatal and serious injury crashes in the area will go down 80 percent and the traffic through towns will reduce by around 90 percent.

The route is still to be finalised and public feedback is being sought, with information days starting this weekend.

If confirmed the Transport Agency plans on applying for consents by 2018.

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