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Minister grilled over `death highway'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/08/2016

Transport Minister Simon Bridges says safety concerns about the stretch of Bay of Plenty road where five Tongans were killed won't be ignored.

But he's stopped short of giving an assurance to Katikati locals that a bypass will be built to keep heavy trucks off it.

Angry residents packed a meeting on Thursday night to voice their frustration over the number of trucks using State Highway 2 through their town.

They grilled Mr Bridges and his officials, with one woman saying she counted 52 trucks in 45 minutes on what locals call "the death highway".

The Tongan coolstore workers had just finished a shift on Tuesday night when the car they were in was hit by a truck as it turned onto the highway.

Four were seasonal workers, including a father and son.

Millions of dollars have already been spent on roads in the area but locals say the real issue is that a bypass is needed.

Mr Bridges says transport officials were working on it well before the fatal crash.

"Before the meeting they were firming up against a bypass but they need to test themselves on this," he told RNZ on Friday.

"I think what we've heard over the last few days is that this is a complex and at times treacherous corridor and there are black spots.

"I wouldn't say this particular portion was at the upper end of that - there are others that are probably more dangerous."

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