No one in government is prepared to publicly deny the speculation that the Horowhenua Expressway, among others, may be scaled down, delayed or get the chop altogether due to cost overruns with other infrastructure projects around the country.
A response from the office of Michael Wood, Minister of Transport said no projects have been cancelled, however, this came with a big BUT ...
Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi did come out last week saying that to her knowledge no projects were cancelled and that she had spoken to the minister of transport.
"It is important to remember that no decisions have been made yet, and that no projects have been cancelled," she said.
"I have spoken to the Minister of Transport and will be meeting him on Tuesday when we are back at Parliament, but in the interim please be assured that I will continue to provide a strong local voice in support of the Ō2NL as your Member of Parliament."
An email to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office from the Horowhenua Chronicle was diverted to the office of the minister of transport, "as the minister whose ministerial responsibility is more closely aligned to [your question]".
Ministers are working through options on how to take the programme forward and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
A spokesperson from Michael Wood's office had this to say: "The New Zealand Upgrade Programme is a significant $6.8 billion investment programme and the Government is prudently working through the cost and scope of the NZUP transport projects to ensure they meet key objectives and that costs are managed appropriately.
"Currently projects are progressing as announced last year and no projects have been cancelled.
"Ministers are working through options on how to take the programme forward and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks."
National's spokesman for Transport Michael Woodhouse has now joined the ruck.
"Transport Minister Michael Wood is refusing to commit to building Ōtaki to North of Levin, despite Labour promising the project to locals last year," Woodhouse says.
"Labour announced a number of transport projects as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme. Many of these were roading projects progressed by the previous National Government but canned by Labour, who then promised them last year.
"But now Mr Wood is refusing to commit to building all projects promised by Labour.
"For those living in Horowhenua this is a bad case of déjà vu. Ōtaki to North of Levin was included as a Road of National Significance under the previous National Government. It was then cancelled by Labour in 2018, revived by Labour in 2020, and now its future is uncertain, again.
"Extending the expressway from Ōtaki to North of Levin will have a massive economic boost to the Horowhenua district and wider region. Investment in the stretch of road would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a major boost to local businesses.
"The previous National Government recognised the importance of the route and developed plans for the road.
"When the Transmission Gully motorway and Peka Peka to Ōtaki expressway open in 2021, Levin will have the worst congestion in the North Island.
"The Labour Government must put the Horowhenua community out of its misery and confirm whether Ōtaki to North of Levin is back on the chopping block.
"Locals will be wary to believe anything Labour says in the future if it cancels this important project once again. What we've seen time and time again is Labour will say and promise anything to get elected, but will backtrack as soon as the campaign is over."
Levin businessman Antony Young, who lead the Build Our Road campaign said,
"As spokespersons for the Build Our Road campaign, we continue to be consistent on our position.
"Ō2NL is critical both for the community's safety and well-being.
"We see it as a strategic to the Horowhenua district, but also in being critical to improving access between Wellington and the Central North Island.
"Any U-turn in the commitments already given to the build would be a significant blow to the region, property owners, businesses and community.
"We have reached out to Minister Woods' office to meet with him and his representatives to get a clearer understanding of the status."