Northland roading advocates say the government's policy statement on land transport has dealt a blow to regional hopes of a safe road to Auckland.
The government plans to invest more in regional roads, road safety and rapid rail - and less on state highway upgrades.
Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd said a state Highway 1 upgrade between Whangārei and Auckland was the region's most pressing need.
He said several years of planning had gone into the concept and on the face of it, the government's new plans were a significant setback for the north.
Mr Sheperd said the present highway was inadequate for freight, and unsafe for tourism which now makes up 50 percent of the Northland economy.
Bill Shepherd said he and Northland mayors are off to Wellington next week to give Transport Minister Phil Twyford their views on the region's roading priorities.
Meanwhile, councils around the country are just completing their community consultation on which roading projects should go into their long term plans.
Far North councillor Anne Court said those projects were based on priorities set by the previous government.
She said it was quite possible they would not align with government's new plans to spend less on superhighways and more on regional roads.
Councillor Court said Far North people will be cheering the change in priorities.
It was not clear how councils can take advantage of it this year, she said, when they have to adopt their long term plans by June.
It was a conversation councils would need to have with the Mr Twyford, she said.