Have your say on making Waitomo Caves intersection safer


The NZ Transport Agency is asking the local community and the wider public for feedback on options to improve the safety of the intersection of state highways 3 and 37 near Waitomo.

The Transport Agency has been working with the Waitomo District Council, Police and road safety partners to identify the options for the safety upgrade of the busy intersection, which was the site of two fatal crashes in 2012.

The Transport Agency’s Principal Safety Engineer, Michelle Te Wharau, says the Agency will hold a public open day at the end of August as part of its efforts to formally consult with the local and wider community on a range of potential options for improving safety at the intersection.  The proposals also include improving safety where Mangarino Road intersects with State Highway 3.

Mrs Te Wharau says this road has become more challenging as use of the intersection has risen. “Traffic volumes passing through this intersection have steadily increased over time, with a current annual average of 6,500 vehicles per day (SH3); 1,300 per day (SH37) and 450 vehicles per day (Mangarino Road).  Heavy vehicles account for 10-15 per cent of the overall traffic volume in the vicinity of this intersection. The area also receives over 400,000 visitors a year, due to the tourist attractions in the area (e.g. Waitomo Caves; Otorohanga Kiwi House).  Many of these overseas visitors are driving on New Zealand roads for the first time.

Mrs Te Wharau says over the past year the Transport Agency has been listening to community concerns and has been working hard with other key safety stakeholders to elevate the priority of this project.  “There has been good progress on having this project accepted for inclusion into the current three-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP).  This allows the Transport Agency to now apply for more project funding to progress the project to the next stage.”

“Once we’ve listened to the public and assessed community feedback, a final option will be confirmed and publicly announced. Our efforts to identify funding for the project will continue alongside these activities.”

Mrs Te Wharau says she hopes the consultation process will also be an opportunity for the families and others affected by crashes at this location a chance to have their say too.  “We recognise the human face behind these tragedies when a crash occurs.  We welcome their comments as part of gathering a complete picture on the potential options for the SH3/SH37 intersection.”

Waitomo District Mayor, Brian Hanna, says identifying the best solution for improving safety at the intersection is crucial and the time taken to thoroughly investigate and audit potential options has been a lengthy but necessary process.

“Council’s input has been a key part of that process and we remain committed to ensuring these improvements stay on track. Since the Agency put in interim improvements after last September, there have been no crashes at this intersection.  These measures appear to be going some way towards slowing traffic down and reducing the chance of crashes occurring in the meantime,” he says.

Mrs Te Wharau says the Transport  Agency hopes to be able to let people know the outcome once feedback has been assessed and other relevant processes have been completed.  “This likely to take until November. Until a solution is confirmed and construction can begin, the interim improvements to improve safety at this intersection installed over the last year will remain in place, as will the temporary speed limit of 70 km/h.”

“We’re committed to reducing the risk of crashes at this intersection as part of creating a safer transport system through safer roads and roadsides, safer use, safer vehicles and safer speeds.  We ask that motorists do their bit too by ensuring they travel at safe speeds, take extra care when turning, and remain alert for any unexpected vehicle movements.  We can all work together and share the responsibility of reducing harm on our roads.”

Public open day and options

The public open day will be held at The Big Apple, SH3 (just north of the Waitomo intersection) between 2.00 pm – 7.30 pm, on Thursday, 29 August, 2013.  The project team will be on hand to discuss the proposals and answer any questions people may have.

Details on the four proposals and a feedback form will be made available at the open day venue, at local libraries; council offices; cafes; and Waitomo attractions. “On that date we’ll also make these documents available on the Transport Agency’s website at http://www.nzta.govt.nz/consultation/waitomo(external link) or they can be ordered by emailing waitomo.intersection.upgrade@nzta.govt.nz or phoning 07 958 7220,” says Mrs Te Wharau.

The closing date for public feedback will be 5.00 pm on Thursday, 12 September, 2013.

The four options being put forward for discussion are:

  • Option 1 - An offset T-intersection layout with head-to-head right-turn-bays on SH3 for both SH37 and Mangarino Rd.
  • Option 2 - Similar to Option 1, but includes a left-turn slip lane out of SH37.
  • Option 3 - A roundabout at SH3 / SH37, and a T-intersection layout with a right-turn-bay for Mangarino Rd.
  • Option 4 - A roundabout at a new location approximately 60 m north of the existing SH3 / SH37 intersection.  This would require a realignment of the end of SH37 to improve its link to SH3. This option also includes a right turn bay for Mangarino Road.

Community notice:

Have your say on improving safety at the intersection of state highways 3 and 37 – that’s the turnoff to the Waitomo Caves.

Come to the Transport Agency’s open day on Thursday, 29th of August, between 2 and 7.30 at The Big Apple, State Highway 3 – 1 K north of the intersection. Info will be online then too - see the NZ Transport Agency’s website.