Looking north from the junction of State Highway 2 and Revans St [SH53, right]. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

A proposal to close the main route to Martinborough to boost traffic past Featherston shops has left the town’s community board perplexed as to how to move forward.

The idea, proposed by Destination Wairarapa, is to shut off Revans St so Martinborough-bound traffic coming off the Remutaka Hill is forced to drive through central Featherston.

Destination Wairarapa’s general manager David Hancock and deputy chairman Paul Broughton told the Featherston Community Board on Tuesday night the proposal would encourage more visitors to stop in the town.

They said all retailers approached supported the idea, as long as safety factors were addressed, and asked the board to get the South Wairarapa District Council to investigate the idea further.

But board members were divided on the best next step.

Brenda West said while it was clear what retailers wanted, the wider community needed to be heard on the matter.

“It’s about getting their views before moving forward.”

Claire Bleakley felt clarity was needed.

“If it’s to get more people to stop at the shops, there may be a better solution than shutting off the road.”

Mark Shepherd said an option could be making Revans St one-way so traffic from Martinborough was directed back through the Featherston township on State Highway 2.

Council infrastructure and services manager Mark Allingham said there were “a lot of pros and cons” to consider but increasing traffic in Featherston could potentially deter people from stopping there.

Allingham said if Revans St was shut off, the most obvious route on to SH53 would be via Boundary Rd, at the northern end of town, with the introduction of a turning lane off SH2.

Allingham said a roundabout at the South Featherston end of Boundary Rd would be the likely connection back on to SH53.

New Zealand Transport Agency, which manages the country’s highway network, said the idea of closing off Revans St had been mooted for a while.

The agency’s regional transport systems manager Mark Owen said he understood the idea was originally raised in a Victoria University study, but he said, “any proposed changes to the highway would need to be initiated by SWDC to emphasise their support for this initiative”.

“NZTA would work with the council to ensure the transport system is appropriate for all road users and that the safety, efficiency and access to the highway is managed accordingly.”

Any changes to the highway designation would also require Ministry of Transport approval.

The board said the proposal would lead to increased freight traffic heading through Featherston’s main street, where pedestrian safety was already of high concern. However, the proposal would decrease traffic passing Featherston School.

Board chairwoman Robyn Ramsden said it was hard to know whether community consultation, or a council feasibility study into the proposal, should come first.

The board decided further discussion was needed before determining a way forward.

Hancock said Wellington was Wairarapa’s largest source of visitors, with the capital’s residents pouring $69 million into the rural region’s economy annually.