A four-lane highway from Whangārei to Auckland in the next 10 years and a tunnel under the Brynderwyns in the following decade are part of National's infrastructure plans for the country.
National's new leader Judith Collins yesterday announced a $31 billion infrastructure spend-up over the next 10 years.
The plan included four-laning State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Auckland. The announcement also included plans for a tolled tunnel under the Brynderwyn Range, south of Whangārei, but Chris Bishop, National's transport spokesman, said that would be in the second 10 years of its plan and would not be part of the $31b announced yesterday.
National will seek also to improve the rail networks between Auckland, Whangārei, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Whangārei hapū Patuharakeke, which has the Brynderwyns in its rohe, said it had not been consulted about any plans to drill a hole through its maunga. The hapū was expected to comment further next week.
The plan has largely been welcomed in Northland.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai has welcomed the proposed infrastructure package.
"Northland has an enormous amount to offer the nation, including visitor experiences, our culture, our products, our environment, and lifestyle options to be envied. Whangārei District has transformed in recent years, becoming a growth area when many other provinces have started to shrink," Mai said.
"In the modern world connectivity is critical, and the whole nation stands to benefit from any and all investment that improves connections between Northland and the rest of the country. Investing in connections to and throughout our region will carry us forward positively into post-Covid decades and could not be more welcome."
She said for most Northlanders heading home to Tai Tokerau, ''the moment we crest the Brynderwyns and see Manaia, Whangārei Heads, the Hen and Chickens and Bream Bay sweep into view is a moment of homecoming".
"I would expect the opportunity to relish that moment would remain for those wishing to use the existing route. I expect that before a tunnel could be built, many cultural, ecological, geological and economic factors would be given proper consideration.
''If there were a toll once it opens, I anticipate this cost would be off-set by the benefits a tunnel would bring to the speed and safety of freight transport between Auckland and the North."
Northland Regional Council regional transport committee chairman John Bain said the connection between Northland and Auckland was the "lifeblood" of all commerce in the North, which would be enhanced by a four-lane highway.
Bain believed Northland's key industries - farming, fishing, flowers, fruit and tourism - would be well-supported by the National Party's proposed investment in roading.
"Obviously the announcement from Judith Collins is exactly what we want to hear and we can't wait to see the beginnings of it," he said.
"Every journey starts with a first step and for that, we need the first step taken to make sure Northland is going to survive well."
Regarding the proposed tunnel, Bain said he was in favour of anything that could make travel more efficient and he couldn't see any downsides to the proposal.
"How could you find anything negative if you live in Northland and you have a highway which is going to improve all our livelihoods and make sure it's easier for us to do our business in Auckland? There is none."
Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones, who has delivered a fair amount of money for Northland projects in the past three years, said Northlanders would rightly be suspicious that the infrastructure promise, including the Brynderwyn tunnel, would not be "just another empty pre-election promise like the 10 bridges [then National Roading Minister] Simon Bridges promised before the  Northland byelection''.
''This Government has already started four-laning Whangārei to Ruakākā with funding worth $650-$700m, whereas National, before the last election, made plenty of promises around the four-laning but did not actually put any money aside for it. We've got the money budgeted for the work and it is happening,'' Jones said.
In regard to the Brynderwyns, he said engineers had long debated whether to bypass it with a road or tunnel. In 2017 NZTA ruled out ever building a tunnel under the ranges, saying it would be too expensive, and instead proposed bypassing them.
''It would be interesting to know what has changed in those three years.''
The Labour/NZ First/Greens Coalition Government plan for SH1 through the Brynderwyns is for a four-lane bypass.
Northland Inc chief executive Murray Reade said yesterday that although he hadn't read the announcement in detail, any investment of this scale in infrastructure would be beneficial.
"Investment in infrastructure in the North is generally a good thing, as long as it's balanced against the needs of the environment and appropriate working opportunities."
Reade said the ability to move people and goods efficiently, through such measures as a four-lane highway, would boost the economic development of Tai Tokerau.
Whangārei MP Shane Reti was very pleased by the announcement, particularly with its benefit to Whangārei and Northland.
"The golden triangle has always been Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, that's the freight triangle, the economic triangle for New Zealand," he said.
"What we are doing here now is stretching that triangle and it now includes Whangārei."
With reference to the proposed tunnel, Reti said initial plans proposed a new route to the west of the Brynderwyns before it was changed to a tunnel.
Reti believed the construction of Auckland's Waterview Tunnel, opened in 2017, would inform an efficient process for constructing a tunnel through the Brynderwyns.
"We are now smarter with tunnelling, we've learnt what can be done, what a realistic schedule is."
Reti said there were multiple benefits to the proposed roading investment, including increased economic gain, reduced cost, improved safety and better accessibility for Northlanders working in Auckland.
Northland MP Matt King said: "A four-lane highway to the North is a piece of core infrastructure that is desperately needed, and I'm proud that National will build it. Northland will join Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga in forming a region that will be New Zealand's economic powerhouse.
"We're going to reform the Resource Management Act, and make use of the fast-track RMA legislation in the interim."
The word on the street
We went on the streets of Whangārei yesterday to ask people what they thought about the roading plan:
Kamo's Darone Diamond travelled to Auckland every few weeks with wife Sarah to visit whānau and donate blood and plasma.
Sarah, a data analyst, said the proposed four-lane highway and tunnel were good ideas as long as they were financially viable.
"Four lanes that whole way would be amazing, especially through Warkworth, I think that would make the biggest difference," she said.
Darone, a residential social worker, believed a tunnel through the Brynderwyns would make the trip south to Auckland easier.
Prabh Deol, 30, from Kensington travelled to Auckland about once a month and said a four-lane highway would be beneficial.
"Definitely, it's going to help because there is too much traffic these days and it would be safer."
Deol said there were several spots along the road south which he felt were unsafe and needed addressing. While he hadn't thought about a tunnel through the Brynderwyns before, Deol said cultural discussions would probably be needed before work went ahead.
Parents Rachael and Mike Burgin were proponents of the proposal because of its potential to improve safety.
"Four lanes is a good thing. A tunnel through the Brynderwyns is an interesting concept," Mike said.
"Anything that makes Northland safer is good, you've got a lot of motorhomes and campervans on the roads, so again it comes down to safety."
Along with their sons Connor and Zac, the Burgins travelled to Auckland about once a month during the BMX season. Mike said there were plenty of idiots on the road and hoped a four-lane highway would increase safety.
Chris Taplin, 60, from Kensington hoped the proposed development would address the serious safety risks in driving from Whangārei to Auckland.
"It's like adventure tourism, you can forget jumping off a bridge, you can just drive between [Northland and Auckland]."
Taplin, who had lived in Northland for five years after 35 years in Auckland, said such investment would be a deserved boost to Northland's economy.
"I don't want Whangārei to be Auckland, I just want Whangārei to be the best Whangārei it can, but access [is key]."