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Retailers and residents at the northern end of Elizabeth Street are angry that the partial closure of the street went ahead without consultation.
A three month trial at the Hill Street intersection, which involves the partial closure of Elizabeth Street to traffic from Hill Street and State Highway One, got off to a bumpy start on Monday November 7. Social media pages ran hot with complaints about the changed layout, which saw cars and buses driving down Elizabeth Street on the wrong side of the road and vehicles doing u-turns at the intersection when they realised they couldn’t enter Elizabeth Street. A petition was started to have the trial cancelled immediately and some retailers were threatening to take matters into their own hands and remove the cones and road markers themselves. The new design also fell foul of local emergency services. Warkworth fire chief Ian Davies said it would delay the response time of volunteers who would normally use Elizabeth Street to get to the fire station. He said it could add one to two minutes to the turn-out time for the six volunteers affected, possibly more if the road was congested. This could mean one of two fire engines might fail to reach an incident on time. Retailer Katya Maker said the barriers had had a direct and detrimental effect on a number of businesses, but the repercussions had gone well beyond Elizabeth Street. “It’s affecting the whole town,” she said. “Because I’m a sole trader, I don’t think I will be able to survive for three months. I’ve had a 60 per cent drop in profits since the trial started.” Bridgehouse publican Ian Holt said about 25 per cent of his customers came from the north and he had sought legal advice on his options. Other businesses that supported a protest on site last Thursday included Harveys Real Estate, Bin Inn, K&J Takeaways, Hot Shots, Warkworth Curtain Shop, The Camera Shop, Remax Real Estate, New World, Super Liquor-Warkworth, Warkworth Lodge, Rejuvenate Me and North Harbour Insurance. Auckland Councillor Greg Sayers says a public meeting was being arranged with the business association One Warkworth, as many businesses did not realise that the impact on revenue would be this severe. “This emphasises the need for Hill Street to have a proper permanent solution,” Cr Sayers said. “I have asked, and expect, Auckland Transport to get solutions to the Hill Street problem to me, and thus to the public, within the next four weeks. No excuses. ” The new layout directs traffic from Hill Street and SH1 into Warkworth via Whitaker Road. Auckland Transport (AT) implemented the three-month trial in the hope that simplifying the number of turning movements would reduce confusion within the intersection. At the start of the trial, AT said it would actively monitor the situation over the three-month trial and would make changes if necessary. However, by Wednesday, One Warkworth had secured an undertaking from AT that the trial could be scrapped by the end of the month depending on the results. An AT spokesperson said the trial was in response to significant feedback from the community to address immediate safety and congestion issues at the intersection. “These interim improvements are not a permanent long-term solution but, if successful, they may form part of a long-term solution,” the spokesperson said. In addition, the results would be used in investigations into widening Sandspit Road to include an additional left turn lane at the Matakana Road intersection. Police said they had received a lot of complaints about the trial, but were taking a lenient view of the situation while motorists got used to the new arrangements. “We’re monitoring it from a safety point-of-view and will look at enforcement measures if necessary,” Sgt Bede Haughey said.