Opposition is growing against the NZ Transport Agency's decision to green light the Rotorua Eastern Arterial. The new road is, in effect, a bypass. The aim is to "increase efficiency, reduce travel times, and improve safety". However, the sacrifice is Maori land. The confirmed route will cut through papakainga land and other sights of cultural significance (mainly geothermal).
Te Ngae Road (the current route) handles a bit of freight and is the gateway to the Port of Tauranga. Wait times can be significant in peak hours and traffic lights, roundabouts and speed limits increase travel times. From an economic point of view, the road is sub optimal. However, the eastern arterial will, at best, shave a few minutes off of the trip. There won't be a significant efficiency gain. Rotorua's eastern suburbs are growing and the arterial will service the majority of that growth - as well as carry freight volume, tourism volume and other people who are passing through. There are a number of roundabouts that will presumably slow traffic as well. The arterial isn't the economic panacea that local politicians are claiming.
I lived in Rotorua for five years and I think Te Ngae Road operates perfectly well. An arterial is a nice to have, but I don't think it's a necessity - especially where the balance between economic values and cultural values is out of whack. The hapu whose land will be severed deserve a fair shot. After all, the airport and other parts of the eastern suburbs have being donated or taken from them to service economic development. As a matter of fairness a compromise option should be found. There is plenty of room to reroute the road, but that would mean cutting through land that has being or is designated to be subdivided and developed. In a clash between Maori values and economic development, economic development's always going to win by knock out.
Post Script: Marae Investigates ran a good story on this issue on Sunday. Here's the link.