Ngāti Tama's 'yes' vote on the multimillion-dollar Mt Messenger project has been warmly welcomed by the region's key transport planning group.
In an iwi-wide Ngāti Tama vote, 82 per cent favoured the agreement with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
This allows land needed for the bypass to be exchanged for a solution that will benefit the region. The result of the vote will allow the Environment Court to issue a final decision on the project's resource consents.
The bypass is a new 6km route from Uruti to Ahititi that avoids the existing steep, narrow and winding route over Mt Messenger on State Highway 3.
It includes two bridges of about 125m and 30m length, and a 235m tunnel. The route will be lower and less steep than the existing road. The substantial environmental restoration programme is also a key feature of the project.
The new bypass will be 1km shorter than the existing route over the top of Mt Messenger, saving four minutes' driving time for light vehicles and 6.5 minutes for heavy vehicles, and significantly reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
"Their agreement keeps this important project on track and we're delighted," says Taranaki Regional councillor Matthew McDonald, who chairs the Regional Transport Committee.
"We hope that the remaining appeals can be resolved soon so work can begin on giving the region a safer and adequately resilient route to and from the north."
The Taranaki Regional Council chairman David MacLeod congratulated Ngāti Tama and the agency over the outcome of the vote.
"Both sides worked hard on this and the result is set to be of immense benefit to the region."
Director of Regional Relationships Lower North Island, Emma Speight, says Waka Kotahi is thrilled with the result, as it marks a major milestone for the State Highway 3 project.
"Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Tama o Taranaki has worked very hard to engage with its members about the vote, providing information about the project and explaining the offer from Waka Kotahi. We are committed to building on our relationships and working with all of the iwi to take the project forward.
"We have greatly appreciated Ngāti Tama's commitment and considerable contribution to the project. Their input into the development of the bypass and knowledge of the land has been invaluable to creating a solution that will benefit the region," she says.
The project is still awaiting the outcome of appeals to the Environment Court's interim decision, due to be heard in August, before it can proceed.
The bypass is designed to provide better safety, resilience and journey reliability on SH3, a key regional connection to the north. It will enhance local and regional economic growth and productivity for people and freight.
The deal includes a 120ha coastal property in exchange for 20ha of Ngāti Tama land, a cultural compensation payment and an environmental programme including pest management in perpetuity on 3,650ha of Ngāti Tama's rohe.
This aims to achieve significant improvements in biodiversity within 10 to 15 years following completion of construction.
"We look forward to continuing to grow our partnership with Ngāti Tama and are hopeful that outstanding matters at the Environment Court will be resolved soon so we can begin building a safer and more resilient road," she says.