Freshly elected NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark has fired a broadside at plans to bypass the slip-hampered State Highway 3 through Manawatu Gorge.
NZTA presented 13 options for alternate routes for the gorge road at a well attended meeting in Woodville on Tuesday night.
Speaking to media after the meeting, Mark said: "I think it was a good PR exercise. I'd be interested in the marketing strategy that lies behind these briefings.
"I'll probably put in a few Information Act requests and try and get a better picture of how much work NZTA have actually done."
Mark said he was particularly concerned about the wide and diverse range of options being tabled.
"I'm puzzled as to why we've gone from four options and a very extensive report that cost the taxpayer a fortune to now 13 options - some of which look... intriguing.
"They had spent a lot of money getting a report done in 2012, they've sat on it for five years and now we've got another set of proposals and we're entering into a consultative process over 13 options."
Many at the Woodville meeting however, such as Tararua mayor Tracey Collis and residents from the affected area, were pleased to be consulted.
In response to Mark's concerns NZTA regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson said the agency was providing people with information at a very early stage of the process because the community asked for the information as it was developed.
"Once people have made their views known on the long list and further analysis has been completed on any constraints such as topography, cultural aspects and existing infrastructure, a short list of options will be selected and released for public comment."
Mark, a former Carterton mayor who was first elected to Parliament in 1996, said the process made him question NZTA's "sincerity" about wanting public input.
"It's hard for people to make a rational comment if they don't see the business case or the costings of all the options.
"It does leave me wondering how sincere they are about some of the options.
"It has me wondering if they haven't already ruled out a number of options and they are going through an exercise here which is more about being seen to be consulting with the public, more about going through a communications strategy to make people feel like they have played a constructive part in the consultation process.
"There's not the detail that allows people to come to an informed opinion around any of the options.
"It's like a Facebook competition where you look at the map and 'like' one of the options but you have no data with which to make any sort of assessment.
"I'm a bit intrigued - I have a suspicion they already know which four options they are coming down to. I need to know the background data they are working off."
Pahiatua accountant and Hall Block landowner Brett Davey said he thought the meeting gave people an opportunity to have a say - that was quite applaudable.
"The speed at which they are doing things is breathtaking. But when you are undertaking an exercise like this, it has to be fit for purpose, it has to be safe and secure for a 1000 years.
"I had a number of concerns. I wasn't fazed by all the different options. I would have been more concerned if NZTA only came with two or three."
Davey thought either tunnel option may be a good option. "They would have a 1000 year feel about them.
"We do not want a road that will only be good for 100 years and maybe kill someone. It has to be fit for purpose. The box cut option would be environmentally unacceptable."
Tararua mayor Tracey Collis said she felt "it was a very positive meeting, similar in turnout to the first meeting which attracted around 400 people.
She said NZTA demonstrated it was listening and taking on board any suggestions and comments.
"I'm really looking forward to coming to the open days. It's really important for residents of Tararua to take part in the social pinpoint and have their say.
"It's unusual for the public to be able to have input to works like this. People are so passionate about it."
Collis said the highway was a significant road and the more methods used to discuss it with those affected the better.
"Social media has created a new environment - people want to be involved and use Dr Google and find out that knowledge, they want to be part of the process.
"This is the first time NZTA has experienced it at this level. They've stepped up to the plate.
"I'd like to understand it a bit more. It was interesting to hear the public discussion about viaducts and tunnels and hear some of those thoughts."