A State Highway 2 safety campaigner says he is sick of politicians playing political football with the proposed Tauranga Northern Link project.
Opposition MPs are claiming the project has stalled, the Minister of Transport has responded with shots at National's "pork-barrel" highway policies, and the New Zealand Transport Agency says its plans are still in development.
Andrew Hollis, spokesman for the Fix the Bloody Road campaign for a four-lane, median-strip highway from Tauranga to Katikati and SH2 safety improvements, just wants a straight answer.
"The politics can get stuffed, this is about people dying."
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and colleague Jami-Lee Ross, National's transport spokesman, drove State Highway 2 this week in rush hour congestion.
They said they wanted to underline the case for the Tauranga Northern Link, a 6.8km four-lane SH2 bypass between Bethlehem and Te Puna initiated in 2016 by the National Government.
Construction on the $286 million project was due to begin this year but Muller said contractors about to be shortlisted for the construction tender have told him it is "under threat".
"The NZTA [New Zealand Transport Agency] is telling them it probably won't go ahead."
The Bay of Plenty Times put the claims to Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, who referred them to the agency, which did not confirm or deny, or give an update on the current state of the project.
Transport Agency director of regional relationships Parekawhia McLean said the agency was developing plans for what state highway improvement projects will be funded over the next three years.
Its draft proposal - guided by the Government's recently-released transport policy statement, currently out for consultation - was scheduled for release in late April.
"The Transport Agency cannot give further detail on future plans for specific transport projects, including the Tauranga Northern Link, until the public engagement process has been completed and the final GPS has been adopted."
Hollis said it was annoying that "no one is being 100 per cent clear with the public".
"It's easy to say either 'yes it's still on the table' or 'no, we've canned it' but they won't."
Ross said it was "inconsistent" for Twyford to publically "claim political credit" for cancelling Auckland's East-West Link motorway project then refuse to state the plan for the Northern Link.
Twyford said Labour campaigned on scrapping the East-West Link as it would have been "the most expensive stretch of road in the world, at $327m per kilometre".
The agency was working to identify a "higher-value, lower-cost" replacement, he said.
"Unlike the former National government – with its pork-barrelling Roads of National Significance – our Government does not handpick roads for electoral advantage.
"We leave the NZTA board to make decisions on roading projects based on their merits."
He also criticised National for prioritising the $455m Tauranga Eastern Link, "a road nobody drives", over improving SH2 between Tauranga and Waihi.
Muller defended National's local roading record.
"Yes we prioritised the eastern link, and now that's 22km of extraordinarily impressive road. We got Bayfair to Baypark under way and the Maungatapu underpass nearly completed.
"This was the next thing to get done, and these guys have stopped it."
Resource consent decision due soon
A decision on the resource consent application for the Tauranga Northern Link lodged with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council is expected this month.
Council consents manager Reuben Fraser said the hearing process was not yet over.
The commissioners had requested further information, the deadline for which was April 11.
"They will have 15 days from that date to release a decision."