As two more roundabout projects were symbolically launched in the Mid North yesterday
Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones vowed there won't be any repeat of the delays that have plagued the Waipapa roundabout.
Along with iwi and NZ Transport Agency representatives, Jones turned the first sods on roundabouts at the notorious Puketona Junction, where SH10 and SH11 meet south of Kerikeri, and at the SH1 and SH11 T-junction at the entrance to Kawakawa.
They are the first regional projects in the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced earlier this year, of which $6.8b is earmarked for transport.
The programme was announced before the Covid-19 crisis but the need to create jobs and head off unemployment has given it extra impetus.
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Jones said NZTA had long ago started preparatory work on the Puketona roundabout but it had been starved of pūtea (money) for years.
''There would be hardly any of us here who do not know of a family, or a member of a church group or a rugby team who has not had an accident or even worse here.''
The ''significant'' $15 million cost was because it would be built on the scale of a large urban roundabout.
Jones has been frustrated by delays to the Waipapa roundabout further north on SH10 since launching that project in 2017.
Work was now underway but wouldn't be finished by the election three years later.
''I felt like I'd let Waipapa people down,'' he said.
NZTA board member Ken Rintoul, of Ōkaihau, vowed there would be no slippage and no lags this time.
''This project (Puketona) was 25 years in the making. The next one (at Kawakawa) will be 25 months in the making — that's how we're going to operate from now on.''
NZTA regional relationships manager Steve Mutton said queues and delays at Puketona Junction led motorists to take risks with sometimes tragic consequences.
The new single-lane roundabout would improve safety, reduce delays, reflect the area's rich cultural heritage and improve visitor experiences. It was due to be completed in March 2021.
Work on the smaller Kawakawa roundabout, which will cost $6m, will start this month with the erection of a retaining wall. Construction of the roundabout is due to start in September and end by June 2021.
Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene said the iwi was looking forward to working with NZTA on improving a vital gateway to the Bay of Islands.
The large crowd at yesterday's Puketona ceremony included business owners such as Ed Lyman, of Bay of Islands Country Lodge, who said NZTA hadn't been to see him despite his motel being next to the intersection.
The roundabout design first drafted in 2009 would require his accessway to be re-routed across the motel's front lawn and would ''just about wipe out the pool''.
Junction Cafe co-owner Gavin Norman, however, said NZTA had promised to keep the project's impact on his business to a minimum.
He welcomed the roundabout, saying it would reduce speed and hold-ups while improving traffic flow and safety.
''It should be great,'' he said.