Waka Kotahi offers sneak-peek at $837m final stretch of Waikato Expressway

Waka Kotahi's given journalists a sneak-peek at the final stretch of the Waikato Expressway.

The $837 million section takes motorists away from the congestion of Hamilton and shaves more minutes off the journey between Auckland and Cambridge.

The Waikato Expressway was started in the 90s and finally, a quarter of a century later, the 93-kilometre road's about to be completed.

"I'm so excited and I'm incredibly proud. It's like seeing all the Lego come together and seeing the final project is amazing," said Waka Kotahi's Waikato / Bay of Plenty regional manager of infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton.

Wilton's been leading the work on this final section for eight years. Planning took two and work started six years ago. Completion was two years late.

Delaying the project were two horrendously wet summers, COVID and an awkward red sludge called iron ochre.

"It's like this jelly-thing that comes out of the water, it's like this red staining but it was quite extreme," Wilton said.

Tokoroa man Tu Maea has every reason to be proud of his achievements. One of 7500 people to work on the section, he started driving trucks but worked his way up to become a senior adviser for health and safety.

"It's bittersweet. It's going to be sad because I'm not going to see everyone, miss what we did and what we did together, but I'm going to be happy because it's going to be completed for those in the public," he told Newshub.

That $837 million has built 22 kilometres of road, shifted 5.5 million cubic metres of earth, built 17 bridges and planted 860,000 native trees.

It was a painstaking process that involved culling predators while safely moving the fish and eels and collecting native lizards, effectively putting them up in a hotel until it was safe to release them.

"We would put a pest-proof fence round it so that the lizards had a safe habitat where they could basically live happily while we built the infrastructure here," Wilton said.

Waka Kotahi said when this last section opens next month the journey between Auckland and Cambridge will have shrunk by 35 minutes since the 90s.