The first sod has been turned at Edendale, marking the first day of work on the Edendale highway realignment project.
The project redirects State Highway 1 around Edendale to create a better connection between Invercargill and Gore. By shifting highway traffic away from residential properties and the primary school, it will also improve safety for highway users and the surrounding community.
Last Wednesday (July 4) Southland District Mayor Gary Tong and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) regional relationships South Island director Jim Harland got proceedings under way in front of guests including councillors and industry professionals.
Mr Harland said the realignment would help with the Southland Regional Development Strategy of bringing 10,000 more people to the district by 2025, and the expansion of Edendale's Fonterra factory.
"This is a very important day for the local and broader community... it is a significant project for Southland."
The new 2.6km highway alignment would feature a four-legged roundabout catering to the 100km/hr speeding environment and a dedicated passing lane for northbound traffic, he said.
"We appreciate the support the community has given us. It's fantastic over the next two years we will see this particular realignment completed."
Mr Tong said it was a "truly memorable occasion" and thanked the Edendale community for their positive feedback on the project, particularly the organisers of Crank Up who were "looking forward to the opportunities this would bring".
"The importance of what's about to happen here in Edendale cannot be understated."
Mr Tong said with 6000km of roads and 1000 bridges, Southland had the biggest roading network in New Zealand outside of Auckland.
"They're the lifelines of our economy... this can only be good for Southland as a whole."
The school pick up and drop off would be a lot easier, which should bring "great piece of mind for people who live here", Mr Tong said.
Fulton Hogan South Island general manager Craig Stewart said the Edendale realignment would be the biggest project the company had undertaken with 22,000 cubic metres of pavement construction and 4300 cubic metres of asphalt.
"At Fulton Hogan we talk about creating connecting communities. Today is the start of a great working relationship."
Mr Stewart said a huge amount of effort would be put into making the project safe and successful, and they would have people liaising with the local community and school throughout.