The first of nine new passing opportunity sections to smooth traffic flows on SH2 between Napier and Gisborne was officially opened yesterday.

The stretch, at Te Ngaru north of Tutira, is part of a $4 million construction programme to ease traffic congestion, especially on the stretch from Napier to Wairoa where heavy traffic had increased since the closure of the rail link.

Napier MP Chris Tremain was on hand with the New Zealand Transport Agency's highways manager for Hawke's Bay and Gisborne Chuck Dowdell in opening the first of the passing zones.

Safety was the paramount factor, Mr Dowdell said.


"We recognise that passing opportunities make a big difference for making people's journeys easier and safe.

"It reduces the likelihood of getting stuck behind slower vehicles and subsequently making risky and potentially tragic decisions ... you are more likely to get to your destination sooner, and in one piece."

He said the agency would continue to monitor the impact of heavy traffic on the road.

The National Land Transport Programme has also allocated about $10 million over the next three years to improve the general condition of the highway.

The project furthers the Government's Safer Journeys strategy, which is aimed at preventing death and serious injury by creating a safe transport system through a combination of safe roads and roadsides, safe drivers, safe speeds and safe vehicles.

Other passing stretch work is taking place at Kopua Hill and several locations between Lake Tutira and Te Ngaru.