On Friday 20 May, Waka Kotahi joined our partners Hōkai Nuku to bless the Arawhiti ki Ōkahu viaduct and artworks as part of opening the southern connection of Ara Tūhono which will give drivers a beautiful new way to move to SH1.
Hōkai Nuku Chair, Mook Hohneck noted that the southern section of Ara Tūhono is significant to mana whenua as the alignment passes through the occupation areas of our tupuna/ancestors. The artwork of 15 silhouettes sits north of Arawhiti ki Ōkahu and acknowledges our tupuna and that we are still here today. “It was a great celebration for mana whenua with our Tiriti o Waitangi partners. The artworks are a visible reminder of our cultural footprint on a road of significance.”
From today, Monday 23 May there will be a new road layout for traffic north of the Johnstones Hill Tunnels. Hibiscus Coast Highway northbound traffic will merge onto the new motorway alignment, travel across Arawhiti ki Ōkahu and exit at the new Pūhoi off-ramp onto Pūhoi Road, before connecting back onto State Highway 1.
Richard Didsbury, Northern Express Group (NX2) Chair who attended the dawn ceremony, was pleased to see this first stage open and be part of an important moment in the project’s timeline. He said he was especially proud to be involved in the blessing and to be present with Hōkai Nuku and the project team to see this magnificent structure, measuring 330m in length and 25 metres wide ready to be used. He said there is an undeniable ‘wow’ factor when you drive State Highway 1 and see this big new structure.
The road layout changes took place over one night on Sunday 22 May. Further road layout changes will be made on Monday 13 June 2022. SH1 traffic, traveling in both directions through the Johnstones Hill Tunnels will join Hibiscus Coast Highway traffic on the small section of the new motorway, exiting before Pūhoi road on the new on-ramp that will be temporarily two-way. Temporary speed limits will be in place until the project fully opens in 2023.
Steve Mutton Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships also attended the blessing and said that Waka Kotahi are pleased to have worked with our partners Hōkai Nuku to tell the important stories of their whakapapa, tupuna that are connected to this key Northland connection. “It is positive to see this first connection of the project now open for our customers.”
Commenting on the next phase where traffic will still need to take extra precautions through the site he said, “Safety is our highest priority, and the reduced speed limit of 60km/h will be in place until the whole project opens. We ask people driving through the area to continue to take care to keep everyone safe, especially our workers who are out there making the project happen.”
There is a plan in place to limit disruption to traffic flows but road users should plan ahead and allow more time for their journey.
When it opens next year, the new Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. It will vastly improve the safety, connectivity, and resilience of the transport network between Northland and Auckland, helping to boost the economic potential of the Northland region.