National MP for Hamilton East David Bennett has blasted NZTA for a lack of planning, after it put a hold on the extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.

On Wednesday, NZTA released plans for short-term safety improvements to SH1 from Cambridge to Piarere, with the improvements likely to include central median barriers and side barriers, while also providing safer access to the communities in the area.

However, Mr Bennett said that the short-term safety work was already planned for and signed off in a National Government business case in July last year, which also included the extension to the expressway, and he said it's a sign of the lack of investment in the Waikato region.

"I've seen comments from NZTA that they could just make it a one lane each way road because there are already decent roads, but that just shows the lack of any decent planning from NZTA at the moment, and how they have been directed," Mr Bennett said.

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"It is complete Government interference as to why that NZTA decision has been reversed.
NZTA's general manager of System Design and Delivery Brett Gliddon said the process that NZTA has just been through is to make sure they align with the new Government's policy statement, which sets the direction for the NZTA.

"That change was reasonably significant as it put much more emphasis on road safety and also focus on access, which is about how people move on the system," Mr Gliddon said.

"We were working on a project which was an extension on the Waikato Expressway to Piarere. We've done that revaluation and the outcome is that in the short term with the safety focus of this Government, we are going to continue to do safety work and enhance that to make sure the existing state highway one is as safe as possible."

Mr Gliddon said that there is a focus on upgrading the intersection between SH1 and SH29 which leads to Tauranga.

"It is most likely to be a big rural roundabout. The key is to put it in the most likely location."

He said that the capacity is way off for the extension of the highway, saying that it is a longer term goal of 10 years, however Mr Bennett said that is just an excuse.

"That is simply rubbish. There is nobody turning off at the end of Cambridge — they carry on, so the capacity is there and that is just an excuse by NZTA to cover their minister's direction," Mr Bennett said.

"It simply does not add up as there is no turn off in Cambridge, so the numbers are there. You just have to drive that road to see them."

NZTA also plans to upgrade the State Highway one and two interchange at Pōkeno to enable safe transition on to the two roads.

"Anyone that drives there knows you can get queued back from SH2 on to SH1 and it goes up the Bombay Hills and that can be quite unsafe if it gets back into the fast lanes, so there will be some capacity improvements there," Mr Gliddon said.

Other projects include safety improvements from Piarere to Te Poi, Te Poi to Tauriko and further safety improvements to SH2.