There is an air of excitement in the far Far North with the countdown to the opening of SH1 through the Mangamuka Gorge, a year and one week after it was closed by a series of major slips.
Since the July 17 storm, motorists travelling further north than Mangamuka Bridge or south of Victoria Valley have had to take SH10, adding at least 30 minutes journeys between Kaitaia and Whangārei.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has now confirmed that it expects to re-open the Gorge on Wednesday (June 30), depending on the weather.
Mayor John Carter was very happy to hear that.
"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," he said.
"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."
Kaitaia 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 down to the weather. We hope that doesn't delay it.
"It will make a massive difference to heaps of businesses that 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 are also those who have lost business because of everyone going the east coast route, and they've missed the through-traffic."
Waka Kotahi Northland system manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said Waka Kotahi was on track to open next week, weather permitting.
"Repairing the eight slips and under-slips 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," she said.
"We know this is an important connection for communities in the Far North, and we thank them for their patience."
The cost of the first stage of repairs was estimated at $3.8 million, and the total cost an estimated $13.8 million. That included ongoing slip repairs and the initial emergency response to the damage.
The road has been opened as a single-lane passage for light vehicle convoys during some special occasions, 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 had a crew in 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. 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 some weeks after the highway was opened, to carry out final drainage and planting work, adding that it was important that drivers followed the signs and took care, as the road layout had changed."