The first sod has been turned on the new $120 million Baypark to Bayfair link upgrade.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges was in town to help mark the start of the roading project, which includes two flyovers redirecting state highway traffic.
It was a brisk day in Tauranga as councillors mingled with NZTA employees and local kaumatua at the soon-to-be construction site between the highway and Eversham Road.
The customary powhiri kicked things off, which included some lovely singing from Te Kura o Matapihi pupils.
NZTA highways manager Niclas Johansson then served as MC, introducing both the transport minister and the mayor.
Simon says, in his new role, he literally does a sod turning every day.
“It's exciting to see another important transport project underway that will support Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty economic and population growth,” he says.
“Every corner in Tauranga seems to have a significant project on the go at the moment. We're definitely in the middle of a building boom.”
Te Kura o Matapihi pupils Jamielee Gear, 9, Maioha McDonald, 8, and Maia Moss, 8, performing at the event.
He gave special credit to assembled councillors for their ‘pro-development' attitude.
“There's never any arguing about whether to have a project, just why the project can't have a couple of extra lanes.”
Mayor Greg Brownless then thanked the NZTA, government, and Simon for their help in bringing the project to Tauranga. He acknowledged that it's always a competition with other regions for road network upgrades.
Afterwards Greg, Simon, and local kaumatua Bill Hiamoe took up the spades to turn the sod on the project that is expected to be finished by 2020.
The upgrade is designed to reduce congestion and improve safety by separating local and state highway traffic. It will also support economic growth in the region by improving the route to the Port of Tauranga.
NZTA highways manager and MC Niclas Johansson speaking.
The project will also improve the Truman Lane roundabout at Baypark and provide safer walking and cycling options.
However, traffic will still have to navigate the major chokepoints of Hewletts Road and Turret Road to utilise the flyovers.