A badly quake-damaged stretch of State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura could be reopened by mid-December.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges told Parliament this afternoon that contractors were making "very strong progress" clearing the highway.
"Work is continuing at pace to clear slips on State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura, with crews working hard to clear several large slips and rockfalls."
Bridges said they were "making much better progress than expected".
The New Zealand Transport Agency hoped to restore controlled single-lane access for residents and essential services by mid-December.
However, this would be dependent on weather and any further earthquakes.
Bridges said restoring full access on SH1 north of Kaikoura would take considerably more time to complete, due to the scale and complexity of the slips.
"The task ahead of us is huge."
When questioned about the progress made on reinstating the inland road link to Kaikoura, Bridges said crews had been working hard since the day of the earthquake.
"Again, the Government is making strong progress here. Crews have been working since the day of the earthquake from both ends of the inland route to clear the 50 large slips, inspect bridges, and get the road to a state where it can be used safely."
Bridges added that controlled access in and out of Kaikoura had now been established.
"The Transport Agency is working hard to have the inland road opened on a restricted basis to all vehicles in time for Christmas but, again, this will be dependent on weather or any further earthquakes that could affect progress."
The announcement of road-clearing progress follows police warnings to motorists to drive with caution on State Highway 7 - the alternate highway between Picton and Christchurch.
Canterbury's Highway Patrol team leader Senior Sergeant Philip Dean said the best advice was to be patient and accept that the journey on this route will take longer than it did on State Highway 1.
"The route, which is more challenging than State Highway 1, takes at least seven and a half hours, but motorists should prepare for it to take longer."