Ruapehu and Wanganui people came together yesterday to celebrate the long-awaited completion of sealing for the Whanganui River Rd.
The occasion was marked at Jerusalem/Patiarero, where work to complete the last 11km toward Pipiriki began this summer. About 70 people were welcomed on to Patiarero Marae at 11am.
Wanganui Mayor Annette Main and Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron both spoke and Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia unveiled the kohatu (stone) marking the occasion.
Guests made their way to the gravel pit that supplied metal for the sealing, and ended the occasion with lunch at the marae.
The day began a lot earlier for some of them.
Whanganui kaumatua John Maihi, starting at Upokongaro, made his way up the road, blessing particular spots. The group with him included Wanganui District Council chief executive Kevin Ross and roading manager Rui Leitao, Jula (Sugar) Teki, Ned Tapa and Ronald Hough.
The completion of the sealing has been a long time coming.
"They've got a bloody cheek tarsealing this road after I've rattled three bloody cars to bits," Pipiriki kaumatua Bobby Gray said.
Mr Leitao said the road has been sealed progressively from the SH4 end since the 1950s.
In 2007 there was a push to take the seal right through to Raetihi, and a budget was set. Work was begun, but the money ran out before the job was finished.
More funding was found for the final 11km. It cost just over $10 million, and was heavily subsidised by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The Wanganui and Ruapehu councils paid half each of the remaining cost.
Three contractors were involved - Inframax, Fulton Hogan and the Ngati Hau Trust, which supplied the gravel.
More tourists, especially those in campervans, are now expected to use the road. It is also part of the Mountains to Sea/Nga Ara Tuhono cycleway and will form part of the route for the Mountains to Sea sports event on April 4-6.
Enjoying its sealed status yesterday was United States tourist Kyla Linnenkohl. She saw a sign announcing a gravel road and was pleased to find the new seal instead.
On a two-month visit to New Zealand, she had already cycled from Cape Reinga and was planning to get all the way to Bluff.