NZTA hopes negotiations with the builder of Transmission Gully will be completed within the next six weeks, but says it's reliant on the contractor taking a fair and reasonable approach.
The billion-dollar road is being built through a public-private partnership, the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP), with CPB Contractors and HEB Construction sub-contracted to carry out the design and construction.
The transport agency has already made an advance payment of $14 million to the builder to get the project moving again after the Covid-19 lockdown.
But that's only an interim payment, which will form part of any final settlement agreement.
National's transport spokesman Chris Bishop questioned Transport Minister Phil Twyford and NZTA board chairman Sir Brian Roche in a select committee today.
Bishop asked whether it was correct that NZTA has been approaching companies other than CPB to finish the job in the event the WGP folded.
NZTA was still in the middle of negotiations and, until a decision was made on them, everything else was speculation, Roche said.
"We are committed to getting the existing relationship to work. We don't have sole decision rights in that matter, we are reliant on the contractor taking a fair and reasonable approach to this but we can't deny the fact Covid has created time delays and it's created additional cost. We are working through both of those."
Bishop questioned whether that reference was an indication NZTA considered the contractor wasn't currently undertaking a fair and reasonable approach to negotiations.
Roche said it was a statement he would make to all contractors.
"In times of vulnerability, opportunistic behaviour occurs. We have to limit that because it's public money."
He hoped a decision on Transmission Gully negotiations would be reached in the next four to six weeks.
Earlier this year it was revealed the cost of the project blew out to more than $1 billion after NZTA agreed to pay the contractor another $190.6m in a settlement over delays caused by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, and flooding around the same time.
Twyford told the committee today he would not speculate on a new completion date for Transmission Gully other than to say there would be some delay, and Covid-19 meant work was disrupted at a critical time in the summer excavation season.
NZTA was working "very hard" on contract negotiations with the builder, Twyford said.
"The reason I haven't been commenting publicly on it is I don't want to wade into those high-value commercial negotiations on a big and important project like that.
"I think we all want to see it resolved, we all want to see it finished as soon as possible, we want to see a good job done, and we want to see value for money for the taxpayer."
At the beginning of this month, the Herald revealed Twyford has never visited Wellington's Transmission Gully site during his time as Transport Minister.
In response to an Official Information Act request, Twyford said he has received three invitations from the New Zealand Transport Agency to visit the site during this Government's term.
He accepted two of the invitations, the first of which was cancelled due to an "urgent matter" and the other was postponed due to the onset of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions.
"As such, I have never visited the Transmission Gully site to date," Twyford said.