Concerns about road safety, speed limit reviews, and massive disruption during construction of the four-lane Whangārei to Port Marsden highway were aired during a Northland roading hui on Saturday.
About 30 people, including representatives of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, the Automobile Association, Northland Regional Council and Northland Transport Alliance turned out to Smeaton Drive community hall in Otaika for the public meeting hosted by Whangārei MP Emily Henderson.
Henderson will be using the feedback from the two-hour meeting to update Transport Minister Michael Wood during his visit to the region on May 25.
Several themes came out of the meeting, Henderson said, including "a real sense of anxiety and uncertainty about what's happening with the Whangārei to Port Marsden highway".
The $692 million project is an upgraded 22km four-lane corridor that will improve transport connections between Auckland and Whangārei.
"We made sure we communicated to the people there [officials] so they understood just how anxious residents are feeling," she said.
"People don't feel like they've had enough consultation, so it was really good to get that across to Waka Kotahi. They are aware but it was good to express that."
The main concerns about the highway were about design decisions and access to properties, along with the use of roundabouts, Henderson said.
More generally, road safety "was utmost on everyone's minds", as was the need to diversify roading due to climate change "and the need to have good rail networks and alternatives to just having traffic on the road".
Speed limit reviews were also a hot topic, and people had mixed views on whether they should remain as they are or be reduced.
Waka Kotahi is seeking feedback from Northlanders about the current speeds on nine state highways identified where safer speed limits could make a big difference in preventing deaths and serious injuries.
Northlanders have until June 14 to have their say on the proposal to lower speeds on 626km of the regions' highways as part of nationwide changes to reduce the road death toll.
Henderson said the meeting was "constructive and positive".
"People were pleased to have had the opportunity to have a free and frank discussion. This is a big issue for us all.
"We've got Minister for Transport Michael Wood visiting next week and I wanted to make sure the community had the chance to tell me what they wanted me to tell him."
Northland Regional councillor Jack Craw, who attended the meeting, said there was a "huge number of complaints about various issues".
He agreed the common thread was the four-lane highway.
Already the Loop Rd roundabout was causing considerable disruption, "so what's 22km going to cause?", he said.
"The disruption will be intolerable."
There was "extreme concern" about the likelihood of years of disturbance and traffic restrictions during the building of the highway, Craw said.
Rather than widening the existing road, a new two-lane highway should be built adjacent to it, leaving the current road undisturbed until the new one was built.
"It makes sense to build roads offline," Craw said.
"Everyone agreed the road needs to be built, but there were a lot of issues Waka Kotahi needs to explain a lot better.
"It's not often you go to a meeting where everyone is grumpy, but everyone was grumpy and fearful."
Craw, a former consultant on the Puhoi to Warkworth highway, said that stretch of road was built "with minimal to zero disruption to existing traffic so it shows you what can be done".
Henderson said the meeting came about as she was aware people are concerned about Northland roads.
"I thought it's time to have a community forum."
Henderson said there would be another road hui in a couple of months once the next stage of the Whangārei to Marsden Highway project is released.