After nine weeks of work to shear the top off troublesome Lemon's Hill, State Highway 11 between Kawakawa and Opua has been opened - at least, for two hours.

About 100 motorists took advantage of the limited opening for a short period yesterday morning and again between 4.15pm and about 5.30pm.

That two-way access was tightly managed by Northland Police and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) traffic staff.

An NZTA spokesman said the agency hopes the twice a day opening can continue, to relieve some pressure on workers and other regular road users forced to take the long way round.


But the giant terraced bank where the unstable hill once loomed will be subject to inspections all day every day, with the decision to open or not made on the spot, daily, he said.

That thought hasn't found favour with some motorists and retailers in towns on both sides of the slip, who say either open it or not.

They are worried people could drive as far as the site and then be turned back, adding even more time to their journey.

''We are keen on it being re-opened, but let's keep it closed until the bloody thing's properly fixed,'' said Kawakawa Business Association chairman Malcolm Francis.

All traffic to and from the Bay of Islands has been diverted on a 40km loop through Kawakawa to Puketona junction and past Haruru since late February.

The detour has added up to 50 minutes travelling time to Opua and the Russell ferry and proved a problem for many students needing to get to Bay of Islands College, usually a 15 to 20 minute drive.

Russell Business Association chairwoman Janet Planet said she is also concerned about an expectation the road will open at the same time each day when people might get that far and then be turned back.

Planet said the detour was already ''annoying, at best - heading north to go south''.

She said she knew of people with part-time jobs in Kawakawa and Whangarei who had stopped working because of the increased cost in petrol and time it took to get to work.

''It's not worth the wage they get."