The NZ Transport Agency welcomes a draft decision by the Board of Inquiry to grant consents to construct the first section of a new motorway north of Auckland – the Pūhoi to Warkworth section of the Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance.
The Transport Agency's acting highway manager, Steve Mutton, says the agency will study the details of the draft decision and provide comments back to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) within the 20-working day comment period.
"The draft decision is great news and an exciting and important step towards improving transport connections between Auckland and Northland and the rest of the upper North Island," Mr Mutton says.
The first stage of the project involves construction of a four-lane, 18.5km-long motorway from the Johnstone's Hill tunnels on State Highway 1 to a roundabout just north of the Warkworth town centre. Ramps to and from Auckland are planned near the community of Puhoi.
The new motorway is one of seven Roads of National Significance identified by the Government as key to unlocking New Zealand's potential for economic growth.
Mr Mutton says that, subject to the board's final decision in September, construction of the motorway may start between 2016 and 2019 and is estimated to take five years to build.
"While it's important to remember that the final decision is yet to be made, we are encouraged by the draft decision, which has followed an extremely rigorous fact-finding process.
"Whangarei to Auckland is one of New Zealand's key transport routes, and investigations on how to continue improving and securing this corridor are ongoing, including for the Wellsford to Warkworth section."