The NZ Transport Agency project to seal and improve the last 19 kilometres of State Highway 1 from Waitiki Landing to Cape Reinga in Northland has won a premier environmental award.
The $19m project has been awarded the Arthur Mead Environment and Sustainability Award by the Auckland branch of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).
The NZTA submission was called Healing Te Rerenga Wairua - Cape Reinga Upgrade Project, and IPENZ says it was one of an unprecedented 11 entries competing for this year's award.
The IPENZ judges say that they were particularly impressed by the project's substantial efforts to involve the local community in all phases of the highway improvement, adding that those improvements demonstrated a clear understanding of the need to enhance and protect the environment.
Cape Reinga and the surrounding area is a place of spiritual significance to Maori, and one of the country's most popular tourist destinations with its isolated lighthouse overlooking turbulent waters where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet.
The award follows a successful team effort involving the NZTA, its project consultants AECOM, Northland-based contractors United Civil, local iwi - Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri - and the Department of Conservation during the life of the three year-long project, says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Northland, Tommy Parker. .
"Anyone who's travelled on this much improved section of SH1 will appreciate that the IPENZ award is a fitting reward for what is a fantastic legacy partnership providing enduring benefits for the region," Mr Parker says. "The sealed highway will help cope with the growing numbers of people visiting Cape Reinga, while those isolated communities in the far north now have a more reliable connection to larger centres."
The improvements include sealing and widening the highway, smoothing out tight curves to give drivers, cyclists and walkers clear and safer visibility. The project created jobs for the local community. Iwi propagated about 500,000 native plants which are being used to beautify the final leg of the journey to the Cape and help stabilise land. Environmentally friendly Information sites have been located alongside the highway, and the Cape's visitor centre has been upgraded.
Completion of the project in 2010 meant that for the first time, people could drive the entire 2,022 kilometres of SH1 from Cape Reinga to Bluff on a sealed highway.