A stoush has broken out between Northland regional transport committee chairman John Bain and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, with Jones stating Bain "has had his day".

The war of words started yesterday at a sod turning for upgrades to the Loop Rd and State Highway 1 intersection south of Whangārei.

During his speech, Jones turned his attention to the much discussed four lane highway between Whangārei and Auckland, and said he and Bain were on "different sides of the debate".

Northland regional transport committee chairman John Bain (second from left) and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (front) managed a chuckle after tense words. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northland regional transport committee chairman John Bain (second from left) and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (front) managed a chuckle after tense words. Photo / Michael Cunningham

"I thoroughly disagree with John's advocacy that all of our problems are going to be solved by this cargo cult mentality, that all of a sudden we are going to get a four lane highway. It was never funded by the last regime."

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He said his priority is "the most egregious cases of roading failure in the north".

Jones said he does not accept the mistruths and the agenda that somehow the Government is failing the north by not rapidly turning the road into a four lane highway.

Despite tense words, the pair managed a brief chuckle as formalities ended.

Bain said Jones' barbs would not stop him pushing for a four lane highway.

"Of course not, our job on our particular committee is to make sure the people that are in power understand that we have a real problem with our roading."

"He can make his threats and he can make his comment and it doesn't change the fact of life that we still need a four lane highway to make sure that we are prosperous in north and we are at least on a par with the rest of New Zealand."

A host of dignitaries and those involved in the project gather for the blessing on the site before the first sod is turned. Photo / Michael Cunningham
A host of dignitaries and those involved in the project gather for the blessing on the site before the first sod is turned. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Bain said while the four lane highway was not funded by the previous government, the planning was well under way - a lot of the public hearings had taken place, and conversations about routes around the Brynderwyns had started.

Jones said the four lane promise "was as sound as the 10 bridges".

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The pair however did see eye to eye on the fact that black spots are a problem in Northland and do need fixing.

Later Jones said there were two "endangered species" at the event. One was the nationally protected green lizard, which are being relocated before the project begins and the other was "nationally orientated" chairman John Bain.

When asked if he thought Bain should resign he said: "I think John's had his day".

In response Bain said obviously he had gotten under Jones' skin. He said it was always up to the voters, and his day would come when elections were held later this year, and Jones' would come next year.

Jones said Bain had "absolutely no mandate to be an echo chamber for the national MPs of the north".

Bain said he was not an echo chamber for any particular party.

"I'm here for the North. If I think there's a problem for Northland, I'll speak out regardless."

Te Parawhau's Mira Norris, regional economic development minister Shane Jones and Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai turn the sod for the $27 million upgrade. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Te Parawhau's Mira Norris, regional economic development minister Shane Jones and Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai turn the sod for the $27 million upgrade. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Northland's National MP Matt King said he had spoken to "literally thousands of Northlanders and the four laning is front and centre to their wants and needs".

"John Bain, the Northland mayors and the business community, and the wider community support this much needed road."

He said they were "typical comments by Shane Jones to attack the messenger when he doesn't like the message".

Whangārei's National MP Dr Shane Reti pointed out all of the Northland mayors and the regional council chairman travelled to Wellington last year to lobby Transport Minister Phil Twyford for the four lane highway.

Meanwhile the cost for the Loop Rd project is $27 million, which includes improvements to the Portland Rd intersection.

A single lane roundabout built at Loop Rd north, with additional work to future proof dual laning is the key feature of upgrades in the area. Some improvements will also be carried out at the Portland Rd and SH1 intersection.

Construction is expected to take 24 months and is due for completion during the summer of 2020/21.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said she was really pleased the "giant wall of wood" will finally come to an intersection "that will be safe for everybody to use".