The new Tauranga Eastern Link has been described as a "game changer" that will bring the Bay closer together and "ensure economic growth", Transport Minister Simon Bridges told dignitaries at its official opening yesterday.

It was the "best road in New Zealand," the largest in the Bay of Plenty and the most highly specced you could build, with four lanes, seven bridges and the biggest roundabout in the country - all completed five months ahead of schedule at $455 million, he said.

The 21km road, that heads towards the Port of Tauranga, would increase productivity and shave about 24 minutes off a return trip between Paengaroa and Te Maunga, creating quicker access for inter-regional freight to the Port of Tauranga and driving down costs.

Prime Minister John Key echoed those sentiments and said the highway had been designed to open up the region.

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"This will help grow industry and jobs, improve safety and support economic development and growth.

"By improving links between centres of production and ports or airports, we can improve our international competitiveness and achieve the strong and growing economy that supports more jobs and higher incomes."

New Zealand Land Transport chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said it was a "critical infrastructure for the region and the country given that important port down the road".

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby likened the TEL to a magnificent piece of infrastructure that would help the city's rapid growth.

"Compared to other parts of New Zealand, we are chasing our tail all the time but here we have a magnificent piece of infrastructure that helps us not just catch up but look ahead and manage our growth in a sustainable way that will be absolutely tremendous."

Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Ross Paterson said Te Puke would experience considerable change, however the community was positive as it looked to work "as a town of destination".

More than 100 vintage cars from the Bay of Plenty Vintage Car Club ferried visitors down the new highway at the official opening.
More than 100 vintage cars from the Bay of Plenty Vintage Car Club ferried visitors down the new highway at the official opening.

In the future the Eastern Corridor was expected to contribute $8.5 billion to the Western Bay of Plenty sub region, he said.

"This includes 17,000 new homes, 450ha of industrial development and up to 100,000sq m of shops and commercial activity."

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said the TEL was great news for the wider region and acknowledged "we too have to connect our Eastern Corridor through here to the port ... this is a wonderful story for the wider region."

Meanwhile Te Puke kaumatua Vervies McCausland told the Bay of Plenty Times it "is going to create more jobs for our people," with the real value the link to the port.

She was also looking forward to less traffic in Te Puke, which meant industries could operate more efficiently.

More than 100 Bay of Plenty Vintage Car Club cars ferried visitors down the TEL, which opens to motorists on Monday.

Quick facts
•More than 3500 inductions were conducted for people going on-site
•Three million cubic metres of material was moved
•More than 1,480,000 hours were worked on the project
•The largest structure is the Kaituna River bridge at 186m long
•The road is 21km long
•Work started on the project in November 2010
- NZTA

TEL Open Day
•Saturday, 10.30am to 3.30pm
•Information hub, machinery and vintage car display
•Find out how to use the toll road
•Open to cyclists 8am to 10am
- NZTA