By Scott Simpson, National Party MP for Coromandel.
After six long months we finally learned that the target date for reopening SH25A is March 2024. It’s good to have some certainty, but the impact of having the highway closed for yet another eight months will be devastating for our region. I’ve already heard from businesses who are struggling or have closed. Others will likely face similar difficult decisions as winter progresses. The continued closure of SH25A is also challenging for both residents and visitors who must take the long way around the Peninsula. Longer travel times have a deeper impact than costing more time and money; people are burnt out and frustrated that simple tasks now require more planning. This general sense of anxiety is heightened when routes like the Thames Coast Road or Karangahake Gorge are fragile and frequently face their own closures. The continued closure of the Tapu-Coroglen road isn’t helping either. We’ve got a lot of winter yet to come which could bring further difficulties. I’m concerned for people who will need to travel these routes because of a health or medical emergency. We have an older age demographic in our region and people need to know that they can get through to Thames Hospital or Waikato Hospital if need be. It’s easy to understand people’s frustration and growing anger with the lack of urgency, but notwithstanding that spare a thought for the contractors and road workers who have been and continue to go out in some pretty terrible conditions to clear slips and get traffic moving. They are doing their best and are deserving of our collective thanks. I, for one, am very grateful for the work they are doing.
While travelling the alternate routes around the Peninsula is an exasperating aspect of our daily lives until SH25A reopens, the longer road trip shouldn’t put off people who are wanting to spend their time and money on the Coromandel. It’s still surprising the number of people who think the Peninsula is closed off. Summer may seem a long way off, but people from across the country and even overseas, will be planning where they want to experience the classic Kiwi holiday. It’s important we all let them know the Coromandel is open and we’re welcoming visitors with open arms. We need to make it clear that we’re here, ready and open for business. Whether it’s world class beaches, cycle-trails, bush walks and vibrant towns, we have plenty to offer both first-time visitors and regulars. And if people are thinking of visiting our region before Summer, even better as the Coromandel is a destination all year round. Caption: Scott Simpson.