Richard Cole: Council needs to step up on Petone traffic woes
OPINION: The Mayor of Lower Hutt, Ray Wallace, has commented that Lower Hutt seems destined to never again be the retail mecca it once was.
Retail in Lower Hutt is dying. He suggests Lower Hutt CBD will become a place of apartments with the residents wandering along the newly planned $39 million River Promenade.
Why is money going to be wasted on a River Promenade near the Lower Hutt CBD when the development is happening in Petone?
Retailers are focused on Petone because of its access to State Highway 2.
Big-box retail has arrived and is killing Petone. We, who live in the area, are being strangled by traffic generated by the attraction of these retailers. But Petone is an older area of narrow streets and was not designed to carry lots of traffic.
And what has the Hutt City Council done to ameliorate or alleviate this extra traffic? Virtually nothing.
The council has no plan for the Petone area. It seems to have a policy of "let them come and we will see what happens".
It started with Bunnings. Hutt City traffic engineers allowed an entrance and exit on Hutt Road. They placed a bus stop by the new entrance. Traffic is a minor challenge in this area as cars come and go across Hutt Road instead of entering off Hutt Road and exiting on to The Esplanade.
Then Briscoes and Rebel Sport moved into Te Puni St. Again, Hutt City traffic engineers allowed a single entrance and exit on to this narrow street. Why do they not have an exit on to Lochy St?
A group from Korokoro met with the mayor and traffic engineers to discuss the impending arrival of Kmart. We had each lived in the area for years, loved the small-village feel and could access Petone with some (although increasingly less) ease. The traffic worked.
K-Mart was the final straw. The council followed the advice of the Kmart traffic experts and has a single entrance and exit on to Hutt Road. It ignored the possibility of having an exit from Kmart on to Riddlers Crescent. Kmart did not want that, we were told.
The installation of traffic lights at the Kmart entrance opposite Petone Ave was another master stroke in stifling traffic flow. We questioned this and suggested a roundabout instead. The council response was, "there is not enough space".
We suggested cross-hatching at Korokoro Cres and Hutt Road. We were ignored.
We were assured that "driver courtesy" would operate. Access to and from Korokoro would not really be affected. The council was wrong here too. Some drivers are aware, but many just stare at the lights and block the intersection.
Now cross-hatching is being planned.
The latest talk around the intersection is having to safeguard the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
Cyclists I have spoken to worry about the traffic near Kmart as it turns and cuts them off.
Pedestrians' needs have been ignored by Kmart. There is no pedestrian access. Pedestrians "foot it" with cars driving into this retail outlet.
We asked for car parks to be removed on Hutt Road to allow a wider "merge lane" from Korokoro. We were ignored. Perhaps that will happen too?
There is no specific policy for traffic movement in and around the Petone area. A general policy applies.
I have suggested roundabouts in the Petone area to allow traffic to flow, but these ideas have been rejected.
One can observe, however, that the roundabout by Pak 'n Save allows traffic to move into and along Jackson St.
The removal of the roundabout and its replacement with lights on the corner of Jackson St and Hutt Road to accommodate Countdown seems to slow down traffic. It worked well before the lights were installed.
So, what does the Hutt City Council offer as a solution?
It is having a review of parking in Petone in August and September. This does not solve the traffic issues in Petone.
The cynical would suggest we already have parking in Petone: It is on Hutt Road from beyond Udy St, past Kmart and down to Bunnings most days.
We need the mayor and the council to get real and come up with a traffic plan for the Petone area. They need to listen to the residents not just the developers.
We need the Cross Valley link to take traffic off The Esplanade and on to SH2.
And we need a Petone traffic policy this year.
Richard Cole is a former Petone Community Board member, and a resident of Korokoro for more than 20 years.
He is holding a meeting on Saturday, July 22 in the Meeting Room by Petone Library from 9am to 1pm about traffic issues in Petone. All welcome.
The Dominion Post