Tararua businesses have shown strong interest in bidding for contracts on Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project.
The big turnout at a procurement information session in Dannevirke on Monday evening came as a surprise to the organisers.
Te Ahu a Turanga people, safety and cultural manager Mark Long said there had been expressions of interest from local contractors and suppliers in attending the session held at Tararua REAP.
"We had nine expressions of interest so we expected 13 people to attend but there were 39 people attending."
He said the information session was to build business owners' understanding of the tender process for their areas of work.
Long said Goodman Contractors had been appointed as the Alliance's earthworks sub-Alliance contractor and the enabling works were under way.
"We currently have 100 workers which will increase to 400, but we anticipate up to 5000 people will be inducted on to the site and we are planning for most of these to be local people.
"We will have a locals-first approach to employment, although we will be bringing in people to get the project started.
"We will be looking for opportunities to partner with other government agencies and iwi to build houses, but in the interim locating other accommodation not normally available to the public. This is all with a target of minimising the impact to the region."
Long then introduced former Dannevirke resident Kingi Kiriona, who has taken on the role of Kaiārahi - director iwi and Māori outcomes, who said the project had called him back to town and he was privileged to be part of the team.
"To have a member of the senior management team promoting Māori outcomes and Te Ao Māori is unprecedented. Iwi have never been represented like this before on all levels governance, management and operations."
He said was hoped that at the completion of the highway project, it will have helped iwi establish their own sustainable businesses, with a goal of five being established.
"We also hope that of those being employed, 30 per cent will be from the iwi partnerships."
Project controls manager Richard Page said the main construction work has begun.
"We are committed to completion by December 2024."
He said in bidding for work it was important for business owners to give as much information as possible about their company.
He outlined the extensive list of work required and the number of packages that were available.
Procurement manager Glynn Owen elaborated on this list, saying almost anything to do with construction of a major highway and anything that could be pictured on a major highway would be there.
But he said there were many businesses in the community that could contribute in ways the team wasn't aware of.
"I had a call from a woman who carries out alterations on clothes and has altered work clothes to save the cost of having to buy items to fit. This is just one of the roles outside of traditional road-building."
He said businesses expressing an interest in bidding for contracts would be issued with a comprehensive invitation to tender document which contains drawings, specifications, requirements, comprehensive terms and conditions and all the health and safety information.
"We're trying in some cases to create no surprises. One thing that is really important is the condition of every bit of gear you bring onsite. You need to be aware of exactly what you will need and if you don't have it, you have the opportunity to price it in to get your gear up to the required specification."
Long then acknowledged the presence of Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis, who he said had been a major advocate of the new highway.
Collis said she had brought along to the meeting some fliers for the Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs.
"We are always out there promoting work for our young people. The new highway is the greatest opportunity Tararua has ever seen. We really need to maximise the district and this project will change the face of the way we do business."
She said the district would be holding Waka Kotahi to account.
She urged local businesses to always use the full name of the project, Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway.
Ministry of Social Development Māori relationship manager for Central Region, Aroha Peakman-Walker, spoke about what was in it for Work and Income.
"Most people think giving out benefits but our main role is finding work for people, although our recruitment service is probably our main job."
She outlined the support that could be provided for retraining and upskilling workers.