Work to restore estuary health by returning freshwater flows from the Kaituna River into Te Awa o Ngātoroirangi Maketū Estuary is now ahead of schedule.

After reopening for the summer fishing season, Ford Rd access restrictions will return from February 8 to allow river re-diversion construction progress to continue.

"The first sod was turned on June 12 last year. We expected the project to take two years to complete but we're already nearly halfway through," said Bay of Plenty Regional Council coastal catchments manager Pim de Monchy.

"We're grateful for the co-operation and support we've received from local residents, tangata whenua, river users, fishers and Western Bay of Plenty District Council to date.

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It will mean we can complete the work and get public access, and the health and mauri (life force) of the estuary restored as quickly as possible," Mr de Monchy said.

Ford Rd access to the Kaituna River mouth and Maketū Spit will be closed to the public between 7am and 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays from February 8 until May 27. The road will be open for public use all day on Sundays.

"If people want to enter before 7am and stay at the road-end all day on weekdays or Saturdays, they're very welcome to. They just won't be able to leave until the road reopens at 7pm."

Locals are invited to inspect project progress for themselves at a construction site walking tour and community update meeting on February 13. The tour will leave from 83 Ford Rd at 5.30pm. The meeting will follow from 6.30pm at Tukotahi Marae.

Mr de Monchy said construction of the new replacement stopbank west of Ford Rd is almost complete, the last row of Ford Rd culverts are being installed, and excavation of the new re-diversion channel is well under way.

"There's still a lot of work to do, and a range of factors including weather and unforeseen ground conditions could impact on final timeframes, so the forecast completion date remains set for June 2020. But if current progress continues we may be able to finish the work sooner."

Information from www.boprc.govt.nz/kaitunarediversion.by and J Swap Contractors