A procession of shiny vintage cars and one bright red fire engine, led by a police car, were the first vehicles to officially cruise the Ruby Bay bypass yesterday.
The historic fire truck led the pack, its passengers waving as the vehicles rolled along the new 10.7-kilometre highway after speeches and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
About 200 invited guests attended the opening, which also saw the former stretch of state highway between Mapua and Tasman officially handed over to the Tasman District Council. The coastal road is now known as the Ruby Bay Scenic Route.
Members of the Nelson Vintage Car Club supplied the vehicles which transported special guests along the $30 million road. The formalities were followed by morning tea and a hangi.
The road took two years to complete and was opened publicly to motorists at around 3pm.
Nelson MP and Environment Minister Nick Smith praised the contractors who developed the road, and said it was an economic asset.
"All of Nelson's and Tasman's 84,000 people will benefit from this $30m new highway from the improved safety, savings in time, and bringing our region closer together."
He said the project was more than 20 years in the making and there had been many challenges along the way, including securing land, resource consents and funding.
Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the views from the bypass were stunning. It was a lovely road to travel on and showed off the district's beautiful landscape from many perspectives.
Jester House and Cafe co-owner Steve Richards attended the opening with a placard which said, "The romance of life is lost through speed and efficiency".
He said he opposed the "nonsense road", which was not needed, but his peaceful protest was not just in opposition to the highway.
"It's about life in general; there's a push to get places quicker. It's more a general comment on where we are going as a society."
The opening followed a dawn blessing by local iwi for the bypass, which they have named Te Mamaku Drive.
Chaytor Rd resident Evlynn Smith, who lives right next to the bypass, said she was impressed with its construction. She hoped that having a house with double glazing and mud-brick construction would help to keep the traffic noise out.
- The Nelson Mail
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