The construction of a much anticipated cycleway between Omokoroa and Tauranga has officially begun.

In Omokoroa at midday on Friday Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Ross Paterson, Minister of Transport Simon Bridges and Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby shovelled the first sod in a formal ceremony.

A small crowd helped mark the official start of the 19km trail - a link between Omokoroa and Tauranga's existing urban cycleway network.

The $7.7 million project was part of a $17m package of cycling and walking projects to be rolled out in the region over the next five years.

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Mr Paterson said it was a small start to a big project. The cycleway would anchor this side of the district to the greater cycleway network, he said.

The cycleway would allow kids to cycle to school again and get off the major roads.
"It will be great not just for cycling but walking, with dogs - on a leash of course - and even mobility scooters in some parts."

It would provide economic development as well for food stops and rest stops along the way.

Mr Paterson said it was a combination of effort and money from city and regional councils, TECT, NZTA and the Tauranga Round Table.

The scenic cycleway would be a way to access urban areas, schools, parks and reserves - and would encourage more kids to bike to school.

The New Zealand Transport Agency anticipated the trail would become a key part of the tourist trail from Waihi to Maketu.

The agency expected the route would attract 130-200 commuter cyclists a day and higher numbers for recreational users.

The cycleway included a walkway and cycleway bridge across the Wairoa River.

The single-span bridge, about 106m long and 3m wide, would be located upstream from the existing state highway bridge and would link into Taniwha Place.

The Wairoa bridge project would be managed by Tauranga City and Western Bay District councils, who made a joint funding application to TECT late last year.

Construction is anticipated to begin in September 2016 and be completed by June 2018.