Northland's 'holiday highway' hearings begin
A major new Northland highway connection will be up for debate today.
Hearings are being held in Silverdale and Matakana about the $760 million extension of Auckland's motorway to Warkworth.
Dubbed by some critics as the holiday highway, the 18.5-kilometre route has been fast-tracked as one of the Government's roads of national significance.
The Department of Conversation (DOC) is expected to oppose parts of the highway extension during today's hearing.
DOC has a number of environmental concerns, including construction sediment entering the Puhoi estuary and Mahurangi Harbour causing damage to marine life.
The controversial road has also split the region with more than 180 submission received. About two-thirds supported the project while a quarter opposed it.
Supporters of the highway say it will cut travel time, reduce road accidents and boost Northland's economy, but opponents fear it could contaminate water supplies, destroy local habitats, and the money could be better spent for other projects.
By fast-tracking the project through a board of inquiry, a final decision is expected within nine months, avoiding a legal battle in the Environment Court.
The hearings are expected to last two weeks, with a draft decision due in June.