Drive to the conditions to enjoy Waikato winter wonderland


It’s well known that the Waikato region is a fantastic place to be during the colder months of the year, especially with the ski fields on Mt Ruapehu set to open early July.

However, the colder months also come with an increased need to be vigilant on the roads, and road users should make themselves aware of the conditions they will encounter before they get on the road, says Cara Lauder, Waikato System Manager, Maintenance and Operations.

“Water has the same effect on roads as plaque does on teeth; it attacks the road structure and causes decay. When water penetrates the road surface through cracks, tyre action and weather can quickly turn these cracks into potholes. New Zealand’s roads are mostly ‘flexible pavements’, they literally flex as heavy vehicles roll over them. Any water in the pavements acts as a lubricant, allowing the stones in the pavement to move more than they should, and potholes then form more quickly.

“We are aware of some sections of State Highway 1 between Tirau and Waiouru that are experiencing an increase in potholes, due mostly to the significant amount of rainfall we have had over the past few weeks.

“Throughout the winter months our contractors focus is on completing minor repairs to maintain the integrity of the road, before more permanent repairs can be completed in the warmer months. Across the Central Waikato region alone there are six crews working hard across the network to stay on top of issues such as potholes.

“These crews are patrolling the state highway network throughout the week, and this allows us to respond quickly to issues as they appear. However, these potholes are likely to re-appear over the winter period, particularly when it rains.

“During the colder months we also need to deal with ice and snow in colder areas. Our key weapon against ice on the roads is calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), sometimes mixed with grit. This substance lowers the temperature at which water on the road surface freezes. We apply this based on local knowledge of hazard spots, and thermal mapping. The thermal mapping process uses data from strategically placed remote-reporting weather stations to predict where on the network icing is likely to occur.

“Road closures are possible in areas around the Central Plateau, so plan ahead, allow extra time for your journeys and drive to the road and weather conditions. Maintain a greater following distance between your vehicle and the one in front, slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards.

“Finally, there will be times when we are unaware of issues on the extensive Waikato network, such as individual potholes, isolated flooding or slips. If you come across these type of issues we encourage you to advise us via 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) so we can respond as quickly as possible.”

The Central Waikato region is seeing significant investment in road maintenance activity as part of the $2.9 billion funding into national road maintenance between 2021 and 2024. 230 lane kilometres were renewed as part of the 2021/22 season, and a similar volume of work will be completed in 2022/23. This programme is the largest in the country and equates to almost 15% of the region’s state highway network being renewed.

Waka Kotahi thanks road users for their patience while work is carried out.