The wheels are beginning to turn to get State Highway 1 and the main trunk rail line south of Blenheim open again.
Rail and road links from Picton to Christchurch were severed by the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake in November.
The first train has now made it to the saltworks at Lake Grassmere near Seddon, and KiwiRail said the job to repair the 347km stretch of rail between Picton and Christchurch is the biggest in generations.
Road access south of Kaikōura was opened before Christmas, but the transport agency said it was likely that the highway north would not be open until the end of the year.
Earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said the job of restoring the highway north was akin to moving mountains.
He said the scale and the complexity of the task was like nothing they have ever dealt with.
"So north of Kaikōura there are nine major slips. The main one is at Ohau Point and we're talking about a significant slip here which is 300 metres high.
"It's a massive task for our crews to get in there and clear that material," Mr Mutton said.
The Transport Agency's Andy Knackstedt said conditions were still too unstable in some places to safely allow geotechnical engineers to get too close.
He said once the slopes were stable, heavy machinery could start working.
Mr Knackstedt said abseilers had started inspections north of Kaikōura, and helicopters had been sluicing the slopes and slips with monsoon buckets this week to clear loose material.
"After helicopter sluicing is complete, we can start scaling work, which will involve abseilers clearing debris from the slip faces. The team is working to form access roads around the slips to reach Ohau Point," Mr Knackstedt said.
Mr Mutton said planning was a large part of the job, to ensure safety and environmental protection.
"We've had up to 40 designers working on the best way for us to clear these slips and the options for getting around Ohau Point."
The cordon that was in place at Ward has been moved further south to the Clarence. The Transport Agency said special legislation had allowed the road clearing work to be sped up as much as possible, but it was not yet known just when it would be finished.
Business along the belt had suffered as traffic had been diverted along the alternative State Highway 63 through the Wairau Valley.
Some, like the A1 Ward Motel and Campground would normally have streams of guests heading to and from the Cook Strait ferry.
Manager Jules Le Grice said people brought in to work on the earthquake damaged area were helping.
"We've been open since Christmas and it's been great. We've been busy and we've got workmen here. We've also got tourists coming through supporting us, which is good."
The government's $7.5 million business support package extended to Ward. The package was aimed at companies most seriously disrupted by the earthquakes to retain their staff while the district recovers.
One area affected is house and farm sales.
Marlborough real estate agent Aaron Flowerday, who specialises in properties around Seddon, said the market was just starting to pick up after the 2013 quakes, but inquiry levels had dropped off since the November quake.
Mr Flowerday's family owned the supermarket and fuel station down the road from Seddon, in Ward. He said a big problem for local businesses was the lack of through-traffic to and from Christchurch.
He said despite the drop off in inquiries, it remained a desirable area and perhaps surprisingly - they were still looking for properties to list.