New motorway bypassing Huntly has residents concerned

A new 15 kilometre stretch of the Waikato Expressway was officially opened on Friday. It takes State Highway One east of Huntly, bypassing the small town.  

While drivers are happy about quicker travel times some Huntly retailers are worried they'll miss out on the more than 20,000 drivers that pass through the town most days. 

Landmarks in the township of 8000 people will no longer be a familiar sight for Auckland-Waikato commuters. 

Instead drivers will travel a new stretch of four-lane highway that connects the Ohinewai and Ngaruawahia sections of the 102 kilometre Waikato Expressway. 

The Mayor says it's a win-win situation. 

"It is a win-win for us to take the biggest divider in that community out of the picture," Allan Sanson told Newshub. 

But opinions are also divided. Huntly shop Candles and Things has been on the main road for 10 years. 

Owner Dawn Shapira says while the traffic will be a lot more peaceful, she's expecting fewer customers. 

"It will pick up, it usually picks up in most towns, just how long it takes is a big question," she told Newshub.

Karen Putwain runs family-owned seafood-truck Mussel Man and has been serving truck drivers and tourists for five years. 

Now she's deciding whether to relocate. 

"We may stay for a couple of weeks and see how it goes and then we'll make a plan after that, but you know we are gonna miss out on the one-off people who are here on holiday," she said.

Work on the $384 million section of road has been underway since 2015. 

Waikato Tainui has been heavily involved and the Māori King Kiingi Tuheitia was present for the official opening on Friday.

The Expressway will improve safety and reduce time on the road cutting 35 minutes from the trip between Tirau and Auckland. 

Friday was the official opening, but it'll still be a few weeks before people can drive on it.