After concerns the project would be parked following the change of government, a second round of public engagement for the Otaki to north of Levin (O2NL) expressway has been announced for February 2018.

The timing has been chosen to avoid being interrupted by the holiday season, the New Zealand Transport Agency says.

NZTA Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight said the upcoming engagement would provide project partners, stakeholders and the local community with an opportunity to review the shortlist of proposed options and contribute to the selection of a preferred route.

She said public engagement early next year would give everyone a fair chance of contributing if they are interested in doing so.

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The news was welcomed by Otaki MP Nathan Guy, who said Horowhenua residents would "breathe a sigh of relief" that consultation on the road will begin.

"There's been uncertainty surrounding route options for years and I'm pleased the Government has decided to progress to the next stage," he said.
"Many residents I've spoken to just want route certainty, so they can get on with their lives. Levin's main street is already grid locked at peak times and this will only get worse without removing highway traffic from the centre of town".

He said he was looking forward to being briefed by NZTA officials in the new year on the route options they intended to consult on.

"Many residents already have strong views on east and west options around Levin and will want to ensure their voices are heard," he said.

Horowhenua District Councillor Bernie Wanden said the Horowhenua district had many high crash rate areas along the highways that run through it.

"This has been concerning for a number of years now and council fully supports a potential expressway that would address this, and support many other benefits including economic development in the region," he said. "While we are confident [the expressway] will still go ahead, we would be keen to have discussions with the Minister and transport officials before any decision is made on [it]."

Mr Wanden said the district was set to grow in population by a third, meaning more people on the roads, so the council felt it could "no longer wait".

"In 2018 we will be engaging with the community on a range of matters including Levin town centre and growth areas," he said.

"We need to do this work if we are to accommodate growth and also if we are to make Horowhenua a safer place to live, work and shop. Council will work to accommodate the decision of Government if and when that occurs".

The O2NL project is the northernmost section of the Wellington Northern Corridor roading scheme, which NZTA says will improve the safety and resilience of the transport network connecting Otaki and Levin and continue the strategic and economic link to central New Zealand.

Ms Speight said the engagement had been put on hold to enable NZTA to discuss transport priorities and project timings with the new government.

"The Government has indicated that it supports the process to finalise a preferred corridor and next steps, which will provide clarity and certainty for our communities," she said.

"We would like to thank everyone for their patience and will update the local community and all of our stakeholders in January 2018 with further developments and a schedule for public open days and meetings".