Residents and businesses are "super excited" about the imminent opening of the main state highway in the Far North nearly one year after floods caused massive slips that forced its closure.
State Highway 1 through Mangamuka Gorge was closed by eight slips as a result of the July 2020 storm that dumped 220mm of rain on Northland in a few hours, causing extensive flooding and damage to infrastructure.
It has meant motorists travelling to and from Kaitāia and surrounding towns have had to detour along SH10, adding at least 30 minutes to their journeys.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has confirmed it expects to open the highway on June 30, depending on the weather.
Far North Mayor John Carter said he was "excited and glad".
"From a community perspective it's bloody great, and from a business perspective, it's bloody wonderful because it's cost our businesses a lot of money.
"From a personal perspective, it means I've got less travel to do.
"I would have liked it to be done quicker but it's fantastic it's going to be finished. The whole town is really pleased we've finally got there."
Kaitāia Business Association chairwoman Andrea Panther said residents and businesses were cautiously optimistic.
"Everyone is super excited, but a lot of people don't want to get too excited as it might not happen because, they say, it's due to the weather. We hope that doesn't delay it.
"It will make a massive difference to heaps of businesses who have suffered from the extra costs of freight and transport and the general public having to travel the extra half an hour on their journeys south.
"There's also those who have lost business because of everyone going the east coast route, and they've missed the through traffic.
"Everyone is looking forward to it, not just businesses."
Waka Kotahi Northland system manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said Waka Kotahi was on track to open the Mangamuka Gorge on June 30.
"Final details will follow closer to this date however, this is weather dependent," she said.
"Repairing the eight slips and under slips caused by heavy rain has been a complex and time-consuming project with extensive piling and the building of retaining walls needed in order to realign the road and make it safe for vehicles to travel through.
"We know this is an important connection for communities in the Far North, and we thank them for their patience."
The cost of this first stage of the repair is estimated at $3.8 million, and the total cost is an estimated $13.8m. This includes the ongoing slip repairs and the cost of the initial emergency response to last July's storm damage.
The road has been opened as a single-lane passage for light vehicle convoys during some long weekends including Easter, Queen's birthday weekend, and over Christmas.
Hazely Windelborn, who co-owns Pine Tree Marketing and Harvesting, was hit hard in the pocket by the road closure.
He had a crew in the nearby Otangaroa Forest but had to pull out of the job because of the additional costs associated with transport.
"It started costing too much," he said.
"Once the gorge opens it will allow us to keep working, so that will be good.
"I'm pleased they've stuck to the deadline they said; I thought there was no way they were getting it done by July but obviously they have."
Hori-Hoult said crews would remain on-site for a few weeks after the gorge was opened, to carry out final drainage and planting works.
"It's important road users follow all signs and drive carefully as the road layout has changed."