Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall has welcomed $817 million in Government funding for the Otaki to Levin highway which he says will shift Whanganui closer to the capital.

As part of the $7 billion in projects announced today as part of the Government's $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme, $817 million will go towards a four-lane highway from Otaki to north of Levin.

"The money in the budget is fantastic for Whanganui and the whole region," McDouall said.

"It's one of those key connectors like the Manawatu Gorge which is really important for Whanganui to get freight, tourism and essentially bring us closer to the capital."

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"We are getting close to being regularly under two hours from here to Wellington. When it's an hour forty, it will improve Whanganui's commercial offering. "

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McDouall said it would also make it easier for Whanganui to use Wellington and Hutt Valley suppliers.

"It really is a key route."

Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced more than $800 million for the project.
Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced more than $800 million for the project.

Whilst the expressway has had many surface repairs, McDouall said it was a magnificent piece of road. "It's made it a much safer journey."

"I'm particularly glad about that because Otaki to Levin is a really rubbish road, it feels unsafe and its obviously congested."

Overall more than $2.8 billion has been dedicated to regional roads and rail.

"Everybody knows New Zealand has a serious deficit in infrastructure, particularly in the regions, but this Government has laid the groundwork which makes addressing this shortfall possible," Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones

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Meanwhile, Ruapehu College will get a share of up to $4.8 million to replace coal boilers used for heating at eight schools this year, with biomass boilers.

Principal Kim Basse was "delighted".

"Living in the Ruapehu it's important to us to contribute to the environment," she said.

"Anything that is good for the environment we are happy with. Also gets very cold here, so we need the heating."