Auckland's $1.4 billion Waterview motorway project will be rushed through its resource consenting phase in just over nine months, a board of inquiry said yesterday.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said a five-member board chaired by Environment Court judge Laurie Newhook would combine an element of community-friendly informality with a level of "judicial horsepower".

Despite the truncated timeframe of a new consenting process for projects of national significance, he was confident the range of views surrounding the partly tunnelled project would be robustly tested.

"We want to prevent the sort of debacle that occurred with the Wellington Inner City Bypass where consents took more than 15 years," Dr Smith said.

Tunnel or Nothing group spokeswoman Margi Watson of Waterview said the process sounded more like "a runaway horse" under which she was pessimistic about her community's chances of gaining fair environmental mitigation.

The Transport Agency, which wants to start building the 4.5km motorway connection in September next year, applied to the new Environmental Protection Authority for it to become the first transport project under the new one-step consenting process - from which appeals to the Environment Court will be possible only on points of law.

The authority expects to make a notification of the application on September 18, after which individuals and groups will have 20 working days to make submissions.

It will also hold a public meeting in Auckland on September 23 to explain the consenting process.

Although details of the Transport Agency's application have yet to be made public, Dr Smith said it required 54 resource consents, including for the reclamation of tidal saltmarsh and marine space through an upgrade of the Northwestern Motorway between Waterview and the tip of Rosebank Peninsula.

He understood the agency was keen on sending a large portion of material from about 2.5km of twin tunnels to Onehunga for a proposed $28 million waterfront reclamation.

Ms Watson said if Dr Smith was serious about environmental enhancements, he would not promote a motorway which would cause far more disruption than a fully tunnelled version proposed by Labour.

Unlike the Onehunga plan, she said, the Waterview project offered her community little mitigation and the agency was resisting calls to filter emissions at each end of the proposed tunnels.

Green Party MP David Clendon described yesterday's announcement as a "fast track to the 1950s".

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday was an important day for Auckland transport and the economy, as a big step towards unlocking the benefits of a completed ring route.

Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said the application was the largest lodged by his organisation, which would hold information evenings throughout the project area once it was publicly notified.