The Huntly (by-pass) section of the Waikato Expressway was blessed at a dawn event participated by local iwi representatives, government officials, NZTA staff, and contractor management, followed by formalities at a lunch in a tent set up on the edge of new highway at Te Iringa Lagoon.
The 15-kilometre section is a four-lane highway that now takes State Highway 1 east of Huntly town. The entire highway is expected to be finished after the Longswamp section is finished next month, and the Hamilton section finished next year.
The Huntly section had been planned for many decades and the final route decided through the Taupiri Range in the 1990s.
Project funding was approved in 2014 and in March of the same year, the $384 million contract awarded to a joint venture made up of Fulton Hogan, HEB, Jacobs and WSP Opus.
Construction started in August 2015 and completed at the end of last month (February).
The biggest challenge in the project was shifting a hillside to create the 400 metre-long, 40-metre-wide Taupiri Pass, which is 57-metre cutting to reduce the gradient of the highway section. it involved moving 1.3 metres of over-burden that was used as fill in other sections. A year of excavation removed the clay top and blasting in 2017-2018 was employed to excavate the bedrock.
The Taupiri area is of significant cultural importance for the paramount tribe in the region, Waikato-Tainui, and seven local marae had a voice during construction, and a working group set up to help recognise culturally significant location and assist work on ecological and environmental elements.