Nearly 300 trucks choked downtown Tauranga this morning as part of a nationwide protest that caused gridlock in Auckland and Wellington.
Truckies from across the Western Bay and even Napier, Gisborne and Waharoa drove at just 20 km/h into the city, clogging the harbour bridge, Hewletts Rd and Cameron Rd.
With blasts on the horn, puffs of diesel smoke and the revving of engines, truckies made their point on Cameron Rd against the sudden hike in road user charges.
Concrete mixers, tankers, dumptrucks and an Army Unimog made up the convoy which blocked a section of Cameron Rd near Tauranga Domain about 8.20am.
One commuter travelling from Bayfair into the central city said a journey that normally takes 15 minutes took one hour and 15 minutes.
At 9.50, a driver left Durham St, arriving at Chapel St 35 minutes later.
People on scooters and motorbikes had the best chance of making it to work on time but many drivers had little choice and had to sit patiently.
Small groups of onlookers stood on the Cameron Rd footpath giving thumbs-up signs to the drivers and voicing support.
While some main roads in Tauranga were affected, Takitimu Drive was nearly empty of traffic until the arrival of the first convoy at 7.50am.
. The first convoy of 29 trucks hit a nearly empty expressway at Judea at 7.50am with the last truck reaching Chapel St about 20 minutes later. The second, of about the same size, appeared on the expressway at 8.10am, departing at Chapel St about 8.25am. However, at 9.50am traffic was still backed up from near the courthouse to Marsh St.
Derek Dumbar, director of Waikato/Thames/Bay of Plenty Road Transport Forum, the national body that organised the protests across New Zealand, said today it was a success and that more than 290 trucks were involved in Tauranga. ``It's gone exceedingly well and we can't thank the public enough for their support, it's been fantastic.' Although truckies held up commuters Mr Dumbar said people were very supportive.
Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said there were "significant delays" for commuters heading into central Tauranga this morning.
The volume of heavy motor vehicles had resulted in significant congestion but motorists were well-behaved. Mr Campion said by 10am traffic was still pretty congested by the Chapel St and Marsh St intersection and the harbour bridge, and there were still delays.
The fire service kept two crews on at each of the three main stations in Tauranga to avoid delays in getting to fire call outs this morning.
Usually the stations are manned with one crew but the overnight crew stayed on for a couple of extra hours in case more than one appliance was needed at a job. St John Ambulance team leader Gary Bishell said they had the same number of paramedics on as usual.
Many commuters took to the roads early to miss any traffic with car parks reported to have been filling up earlier.
"Most people came in a bit earlier," Frank Begley, Tauranga City Council transport communications manager, said.
DHB spokeswoman Carol Wollaston said staff at Tauranga Hospital had not had any problems with the traffic.
"Some people are working from home today and some people have arranged to come in late," she said.
She said truckies had an agreement with the hospital to not block emergency services.