Transport Minister Simon Bridges has told parliament State Hightway 1 south of Kaikoura could be open to traffic within weeks.
"We are making much better progress than expected, the transport agency hopes to restore controlled, single lane access to residents and essential services by mid-December," he said on Tuesday.
"NZTA is working hard to get the inland road open on a restricted basis to all vehicles in time for Christmas."
Mr Bridges said it would take "considerably more time" to clear SH1 north of Kaikoura because the scale of the slips caused by the 7.8-magnitude November 14 earthquake was unprecedented.
He reported good progress was being made clearing the inland road route to Kaikoura.
"While the inland road is still fragile, good progress is being made and controlled access in and out of Kaikoura has been established," he said.