Transport Minister Simon Bridges has turned the sod to mark the start of construction on a $13 million project to upgrade Napier's Watchman Rd intersection.

Yesterday the Minister was joined by local iwi Mana Ahuriri, representatives from funding partners Hawke's Bay Airport and Napier City Council, and local stakeholders to celebrate the beginning of the intersection's major revamp.

The project, set to get under way before the end of the month, is expected to take about 14 months to complete and will construct a roundabout at the intersection and a new road from Hawke's Bay Airport to link to Watchman Rd, along with the widening and strengthening of Watchman Rd.

Minister Bridges said the roundabout and improved airport access would provide a safe and more efficient intersection.


"This project will also deliver better access to both the airport and the Napier Port, providing for seamless freight movement around the region,

"Hawke's Bay is a thriving local economy, and supporting regional economic development through investing in projects like these is a key for the Government."

The project is being jointly funded from the National Land Transport Fund, Hawke's Bay Airport and Napier City Council and is part of a $25 million package of road access improvements to Napier Port launched in July 2016.

The work is expected to improve safety at the intersection, which is one of the North Island's highest-risk intersections.

"There have been fatal and serious crashes in this area, so the roundabout and improved airport access will provide a safer, more efficient intersection, with better access to both the airport and the Napier Port," NZ Transport Agency highway manager Wayne Oldfield said.

Due to the work being carried out in an environmentally sensitive area, adjacent to the Ahuriri Estuary , Mr Oldfield said the transport team had worked hard to ensure there was minimal impact on local plant, bird and aquatic life.

The project will be built by Higgins Construction and is scheduled for completion in June 2018.