Tauranga Business Chamber warns sinkhole, road closure will have 'longstanding impacts' on economy

Tauranga businesses will be reactivating their COVID-19 work-from-home policies if they can on Monday after a giant sinkhole closed a main highway in the area, cutting off many workers.   

The sinkhole closed the road between Barkes Corner and Oropi Road roundabout and locals are being warned of intense congestion.   

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) urged residents not to drive to work until at least Wednesday so repairs can be carried out.   

Tauranga Business Chamber CEO Matt Cowley said the city has a lot of industrial workers who can't work from home.  

Cowley said Tauranga's State Highway is a ring road system and cutting off one means traffic will be forced to use Hewletts Road, which he added is clogged at the best of times.  

"We have a lot of people who live in Papamoa and work on the other side of town in the industrial area and there is no chance they can work from home, or it's very unlikely. So for the next few days, businesses will need to evoke their business continuity plans, and if they don't have one they better get one sorted pretty quickly," he told AM on Monday.   

Cowley said the closure is going to be felt not just in Tauranga but across the wider region including Rotorua and Hamilton as well.   

"We are the export gateway to the world, going through the Port of Tauranga, so there is a lot of heavy traffic movements as well but of course, the CBD could be a bit quieter today... It will have longstanding impacts and for New Zealand's economy as well."  

People are being warned ahead of likely traffic delays.
People are being warned ahead of likely traffic delays. Photo credit: NZ Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi)

He said the key will be whether the sinkhole is a one-off or a systemic larger issue.   

On Sunday NZTA warned severe congestion is likely to occur throughout Monday due to the sudden closure of the highway near Oropi combined with a lane closure on Totara Street.    

Both areas are major routes in and out of the Mount Maunganui area.   

NZTA suggested road users avoid travelling, work from home or use alternative transport if they can.     

"NZTA contractors are doing all they can to fix the road, including working through the night tonight, but the timeframe for re-opening is still unknown.  

"Hewletts Road eastbound bus lane will be open for all vehicles going toward Maunganui Road to try and help the situation."   

Work on Totara St is expected to be complete by 6am on Wednesday.