Hastings District Council has signed off on a $20 million roading project through Whakatu's industrial centre which a study says will deliver more than $100m of travel and safety benefits over 30 years.

Councillors voted yesterday to authorise staff to move ahead with resource consent applications and road stopping for the Whakatu arterial link - a major project aimed at providing a better route between Havelock North, through Whakatu and on to Pakowhai Road and the expressway through to the Napier Port.

The link has been identified as the Hawke's Bay region's highest-priority roading project, which aims to improve freight traffic safety and efficiency in and out of the Whakatu industrial area.

It is also hoped operators will use the Napier-Hastings expressway for transporting freight between Whakatu and Napier Port and make travel between Havelock North, Napier and the airport safer and faster.


Construction work could possible start in May next year and the project will include a new "five-legged" roundabout on SH2 where it meets Napier Road at Mangateretere.

A new roundabout will also be built at the other end of the link where it will join Pakowhai Road adjacent to the Pakowhai Regional Park entrance.

The link is expected to result in a significant reduction in traffic using nearby roads including Ruahapia, Elwood, Otene and Anderson Roads.

The economic benefits of travel time saved, reduced vehicle running expenses and reduced accident costs would total more than $102m over 30 years, a consultant's study found.

The project is estimated to cost $20.17m, including $5.11m to buy the required land.

The bill will be split between central government and local ratepayers with the New Zealand Transport Agency set to contribute $14.27m and the council $5.9m.

A paper from council staff prepared for yesterday's meeting said the council's share of the cost of the project would increase by $1.2m under changes to NZTA funding policies if the link was not committed to and approved by June 30 next year.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said given a significant amount of planning work had already been done on the project and he was confident the council would be able to secure funding under the existing policy.

Mr Yule said it was difficult to estimate a completion date for the link but he expected the project would involve about a year of construction.

"It's certainly the biggest roading project we've done as a council in a very long time," he added.