Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has delivered some good news to people anxious the proposed Ōtaki to North Levin Expressway (Ō2NL) had been put on the back burner.
There has been some speculation the Government had mothballed the project but Robertson, who was guest speaker at an Electra Business Breakfast at Kāpiti's Southward Car Museum today, cleared up the matter.
"It is going to proceed."
More announcements would be made in time but it was clear the expressway was "going to cost more" because of escalating infrastructure costs in New Zealand and overseas.
"That is a result of Covid, it's result of building supplies, it's a result of labour supply issues, and it's a result of time having advanced since we approved the funding for this as part of the upgrade programme in February 2020.
"So it's going to cost more and we will have a bit more to say about that and the other projects within the New Zealand Upgrade Programme over the next day or two.
"But it's an important project to this region. I understand that.
"I've lived in the greater Wellington area for a long time now. When I first moved to Wellington in 1995 I bought a second hand car with a Build Transmission Gully sticker on the back of it.
"I think Transmission Gully will be built pretty soon and I don't think that car is still surviving."
Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi said she had strongly advocated for the expressway to proceed during many meetings with ministers and officials.
She was pleased "our voices have been heard" and the expressway was "all go".
"The New Zealand Upgrade Programme transport projects were re-evaluated post Covid-19 to ensure we have a balanced plan for our economic recovery, putting us on a path to lower debt whilst investing in infrastructure.
"I want to acknowledge the Minister of Transport who had the huge task of evaluating the baseline data for all projects.
"I am grateful that the minister could see the importance of Ō2NL and it is fantastic news that he has confirmed that the construction of Ō2NL has the green light.
"Ō2NL is an absolute game changer for our community.
"I have driven on this road myself for many years and know the difference this is going to make.
"It is one of the most dangerous sections of road to drive in New Zealand - in the five years to 2017, there were 49 deaths and serious injuries along the route.
"Sadly, there were two more deaths on Wednesday."
Ngobi said the new 24km four lane highway would run from Ōtaki to north of Levin, built to the east of the existing State Highway 1.
"The project includes a separated shared path for walking and cycling running the entire length of the new highway, helping to extend the region's cycleway.
"Ō2NL will ensure people and freight are able to safely and easily move between the two regions and the rest of the North Island – helping to support the regions' businesses and economic recovery."