The Government is being accused of rubber-stamping Auckland's Waterview Connection before it even reaches the consent process.
The Waterview link, including two three-lane tunnels, will connect state highways 20 and 16. [It is part of the 48-kilometre western ring route that will be an alternative to State Highway 1 through Auckland.
On Thursday the Transport Agency began asking for tenders for construction, to which, it has now revealed, it has committed $2 billion.
It says the tendering process will run parallel with an application for consent with the Environmental Protection Authority to be lodged next month.
But Margi Watson from the protest group Tunnel or Nothing says it appears Transport Minister Steven Joyce is bypassing due process for his own vanity.
She says she cannot imagine anyone wanting to put their hand up for the project without a formal guarantee it will actually go ahead.
Ms Watson says the community is still to receive reports on air quality and other potential health impacts promised to them by the Transport Agency.
Planning process 'not redundant'
Earlier, Mr Joyce stressed that the decision to seek bids for building the project does not make the planning process redundant.
He says the project remains conditional on consents, which are being applied for next month.
Mr Joyce says that asking for tenders and consents at the same time allows the Transport Agency to save time and money and hopefully capitalise on market conditions to get a good tender price.
He says the project will save 20 minutes on the trip from west Auckland to the airport, provide a direct arterial link between the central business district and the airport and create jobs.