A symbolic start has been made on a $9 million roundabout to fix one of Northland's most loathed intersections.
Preparatory work at the junction of Waipapa Rd and State Highway 10, north of Kerikeri, is already under way, but on Friday the project's backers came together for a ceremonial turning of the first sods.
Along with the Billion Trees Fund and Bay of Islands wharf upgrades, the roundabout was one of the first projects to receive cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones saying he had asked the NZTA to choose projects that were "a real bugbear," and Waipapa was top of the list.
The intersection was the site of regular accidents, congestion and stress, and many locals avoided it at certain times of day for fear of crashes, Mr Jones offering "full marks" to those who had advocated for a roundabout over the years.
No one was happier on Friday than district councillor Ann Court, who began campaigning for a roundabout after witnessing a near miss 29 years ago, that experience being one of the factors that propelled her into local government.
"This is the best day of my career, without a doubt. In future every person who drives through here will be able to do so safely," she said.
NZTA regional relations manager Steve Mutton said the roundabout and Klinac Lane extension would improve safety, allow better connections within Waipapa, make the area more cycle- and pedestrian-friendly, reduce congestion and slow traffic. Local businesses would suffer some disruption, but ultimately it would improve the local economy, he said.
The sod-turning was entrusted to Mr Jones, Northland MP Matt King and Waipapa Business Association representative Sarah Curtis, who said the project was testament to Cr Court's persistence.
"We're glad it's finally paid off," she said.
Work has started already on shifting utilities such as water and power. Stormwater will be improved and overhead power lines will be placed underground.
The next phase will be to extend Klinac Lane from the commercial centre of Waipapa to connect with Waipapa Loop Rd, which will include building a short bridge.
Once that is complete, around March-April, Klinac Lane will serve as a detour at times while work on the intersection is under way. The roundabout is due to be completed by the end of 2020.