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Mount Messenger full file2

Programme introduction

Improvements are underway on State Highway 3 (SH3) from Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger to improve safety, resilience and route availability. This 58 km section of SH3 is Taranaki’s main route north, it runs through rough terrain and is winding and narrow.

  • Estimated project cost

    $114-135 million
  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status

    Design, Investigation

Project updates

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Three projects

The Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger Programme is made up of:

  • Mt Messenger bypass Project
    Currently work is being undertaken to determine a preferred option.
  • Awakino Tunnel bypass Project
    A bypass of the Awakino Tunnel with two bridges across the Awakino River that reconnects to the existing highway 800 meters to the north.
  • SH3 safety and resilience improvements Project
    A package of improvements that includes road widening, rest stop and pull over areas, slow vehicle bays and passing lanes, side barriers, and slope stability improvements.


The Programme will improve safety, resilience and journey experience  along this key transport route.

The main objectives are to:

  • reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from crashes
  • reduce the number and duration of road closures
  • improve journey time predictability
  • improve drivers’ experience along the SH3.


Initial investigations on SH3 were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s by the Ministry of Works and Development for the National Roads Board. Since then a number of studies and investigations have been completed.

A business case confirmed there are ongoing safety, route availability and travel time issues, due to poor road layout along SH3. Poor route configuration has resulted in a number of deaths, serious injuries and road closures over recent years.

Cost and funding source

Funding of $114-135 million has been allocated for the improvements on SH3 north of Taranaki.



Funding source

Awakino Tunnel bypass

$9–15 million

Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme

Mt Messenger bypass

$80–90 million

Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme

Safety and resilience improvements

$25–30 million

National Land Transport Programme 2015–18 (external link) .


Construction for each project is estimated to occur during:

  • 2017 to 2019 – Safety and resilience improvements
  • 2018 to 2020 – Awakino Tunnel bypass
  • 2018 to 2020 – Mt Messenger bypass.

What's happening

Design and consenting work is underway for the two-bridge bypass of Awakino Tunnel ahead of construction.

Some minor safety improvements are being carried out along the 58km stretch of highway. More complex safety and resilience improvement are planned including road widening, intersection improvements, passing opportunities, road realignments and slope stability.

Further work is needed before a preferred option for the Mt Messenger bypass project can be confirmed.

Timeline for projects

Timeline for Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger project