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waikato expressway banner 2016

Project introduction

The Waikato Expressway project will improve safety and reliability and reduce travel times and congestion on SH1 by delivering a four-lane highway from the Bombay Hills to south of Cambridge. The expressway is being built in seven sections.

  • Estimated project dates

    Jan 2009–Dec 2020
  • Estimated project cost

    $100+ million
  • Project type

    4-Laning, Roads of National Significance

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When complete the Waikato Expressway will be the key strategic transport corridor for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of Waikato and Bay of Plenty. The Expressway will improve economic growth and productivity through more efficient movement of people and freight.




  • Reduce travel times between Auckland and Tirau by 35 minutes.

  • Significantly reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes.

  • Increase the highway's capacity and passing opportunities.

  • Reduce traffic congestion within smaller communities like Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge.

  • Reduce fuel costs route and contribute to economic growth.

Sections of the Waikato Expressway under construction

The Waikato Expressway is made up of seven projects. These include:

Waikato Expressway update 2016

Frequently asked questions

If your question is not answered here, please contact us.

  • Why is the Waikato Expressway being built?

    The Expressway will improve economic growth and productivity for Auckland, Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty through more efficient movement of people and freight.

    The Waikato Expressway will:

    • reduce travel times between Auckland and Tirau up to 35 minutes

    • significantly reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes

    • increase the highway's capacity and passing opportunities

    • reduce traffic congestion within smaller communities like Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge

    • reduce fuel costs and contribute to economic growth.

  • Where will interchanges and access points be located on the new road?

    The number of intersections will be minimised to ensure that through traffic is directed away from smaller communities and that local choke points are not created by cross town or local traffic seeking to use the Expressway. The planned benefits of economic growth and productivity are dependant on minimising journey times between Auckland and the agricultural and business centres of Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Several sections of the Waikato Expressway are yet to complete design stage so the precise number and location of access points is yet to be confirmed. Current plans can be viewed on the schematic map [PDF, 3.4 MB]

  • When is it likely to be completed?

    Completion of the whole Waikato Expressway is targeted for 2019.

    The individual sections of the Expressway are at the stages described below (as at July 2014):

    • Pokeno and Mercer sections totalling 22.6km are completed and open.

    • Longswamp section of 5.9km. Being investigated and designed. Target opening late 2018.

    • Rangiriri section of 4.4km. Under construction. Opens late 2016.

    • Ohinewai section of 7.0km is completed and open.

    • Huntly section of 15.2km. Finalising consenting process, construction due to begin 2015. Target opening 2019.

    • Ngaruawahia section of 12.3km. Completed and opened December 2013.

    • Te Rapa section of 7.3km. Completed, opened December 2012.

    • Hamilton section of 21.8km. Being investigated and designed. Target opening 2019.

    • Tamahere interchange of 2.4km is complete and open.

    • Cambridge section of 16km. Under construction. Opens late 2016.

  • What is being done to reduce the environmental impact of the road?

    The NZ Transport Agency is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment where appropriate.

    Noise control

    Noise levels will comply with NZ Transport Agency Guidelines and the New Zealand construction standard limits. Measures used will include:

    • Monitoring of noise during construction and advance notification of any unavoidably noisy construction activity.

    • Haul routes for moving materials will be away from main roads and sensitive residential areas wherever practicable.

    • Landscaped buffer zones and noise barriers.

    Visual impact, landscaping and environmental measures

    Careful consideration has been given to native wildlife and habitats, in order to minimise impact and disruption. Landscaping and planting has and continues to be used to mitigate the visual impacts of the new road and create a pleasant environment for both road users and others.

    What examples are there of minimising environmental impact?

    Mudfish have been temporarily moved at Rangiriri until a new, safe and improved habitat was constructed for them. A tree used by bats was left intact on the Cambridge route.

    240,000 native plants and grasses were planted in Ngaruawahia section works, including around the Lake Areare wetland.

    Swales and culverts are used to manage natural water flows and drainage.

    Significant sites - Cultural, historic and environmental

    A range of measures are in place to protect cultural, historic and environmental sites.

    Liaison has and continues to take place with local groups and on site archaeological controls are in place to ensure that processes are followed. Important cultural and historic sites such the Urupa on Taupiri Mountain and the Rangiriri Pa will benefit from the improvements provided by the Expressway as busy SH1 traffic is moved away.

  • What happens to properties affected by the new road?

    All those with properties fully or partly required to build the road have been and will fully consulted with as the project develops. Where property must be purchased, owners will be fairly compensated. Processes for managing land purchase or compensation for those affected by the new road are laid out in the Public Works Act and summarised in a useful guide "Landowner's rights" which is available from Land Information New Zealand or via their website (external link) .

  • What is a designation and can it be changed?

    The designation is the notified route the road will take and is the result of Resource Management Act processes before being made final. Variations to the design of the road within the designation are possible, especially where the Transport Agency uses design and construct contracts. This allows for the contractor to make changes to the design to get a better outcome.

  • Are you doing anything for cyclists?

    We generally encourage cyclists to use off-main road facilities, and in the case of the Waikato Expressway this will be mostly on the ex-SH1 sections bypassed by the Expressway. It is only on the urban Te Rapa Section where we have constructed a separate shared footpath/cycleway running alongside the Expressway. That said, the expressway sections do have wide shoulders suitable for experienced cyclists. Where local roads cross the Expressway, both at interchanges and where there are no connections with the Expressway, we also provide shoulders on the bridge structures wide enough to accommodate pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists.

  • Will there be opportunities for the community to provide feedback?

    Several sections of the Waikato Expressway still have to complete the investigation, design and consent processes before progressing to construction. The community is being fully consulted as the project develops.

    In parallel with the investigations, NZ Transport Agency and its consultant will be consulting landowners, tangata whenua, stakeholders and other affected parties to ensure they fully understand any issues that could affect the highway design. This will include developing further details of mitigation measures including ecological restoration, traffic noise mitigation, erosion and sediment control, landscape design and protocols in case of accidental archaeological discovery. The consultation process will include a combination of site visits, individual meetings and Public Information Days. For further information on the Resource Management Act see (external link)