Christmas has come early for the Whanganui and Ruapehu districts with the opening of a temporary road around the massive State Highway 4 slip.
A section of the state highway between Raetihi and Whanganui has been closed since early October when around 400 metres of road was destroyed in the slip.
The temporary route, which consists of two lanes, is scheduled to open tomorrow.
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) regional transport system manager Mark Owen said the route will be opened ahead of the summer holidays.
"We know how important this road is to locals, businesses, and travellers and we've made it a priority to get this temporary road built as quickly as it was safe to do so," Owen said.
"Due to the scale and complexity of the slip, we knew it would be a challenge to get the road open by Christmas.
"It's a testament to the hard work of the team and our contractors, and with the support of the Ruapehu District Council and Whanganui District Council, that we've been able to achieve this."
It was initially thought the road would not open until next year, however, it will now open to traffic at midday on Friday.
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said he, and many locals he's spoken to, were pleased with the progress.
"They've pulled out all the stops and despite the weather which we thought would hold them up obviously they've managed to stabilise enough to allow for a gravel road at this stage.
"Saturday was the Christmas parade in Raetihi and I didn't hear anyone bagging NZTA at all, it was rather more praise of how well they're working and keeping everyone up to date."
Cameron said the response to the slip as a new beginning for the agency.
"It's probably a new era for NZTA by talking with local councils and communities and making sure their roading is up to scratch, and at the same time doing a big upgrade of SH4 and getting all the drop outs done," he said.
"Certainly the changes to the policy statement around safety really made it quite difficult for them to obtain enough money to keep the repair and maintenance up on our state highways, but that seems to be sorted out at last and things are looking good."
Raetihi Promotions Charitable Trust chairman Gary Griffin-Chappel said the opening of the temporary route was a "fantastic Christmas present".
"I went for a drive to Waiouru the other day and it's amazing the amount traffic that's on State Highway 1 and obviously very little to nothing coming this way."
National Road Carriers executive officer Tom Cloke said NZTA should be congratulated for their work to open a temporary road.
"It is a good feat, and we just hope it will give [NZTA] a bit of breathing space and maybe if it settles down enough it may be a full time fix because it certainly will be a saving for the land transport fund to spend a small amount of money than the millions it would be to put a full by-pass in."
While the road has been out of action transport companies have used the much longer SH1, SH3 detour and left Whanganui River Rd to smaller vehicles.
Cloke said the added cost wasn't a massive impact to the companies but had still been felt.
Although the temporary road is due to open tomorrow and will be in place until a permanent solution is determined, it may be closed at short notice if NZTA has any safety concerns.
Planning for the permanent solution is ongoing and a preferred option is expected to be announced early next year.
A public opening event takes place on SH4, 18km south of Raetihi, at 9am tomorrow and motorists will be able to use the route from midday.