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Plan ahead and take extra care on the roads this weekend


With the Queen’s Birthday long weekend ahead, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency urges drivers to stay safe and plan ahead, particularly if they are driving long distances in freezing, windy or wet conditions.

“We want everyone to get to their destinations and back again safely,” says Waka Kotahi South Island Journey Manager Tresca Forrester. “Expect the roads to be busy, especially Friday and Monday so please allow extra time to get to your destination.”

Canterbury road conditions

If you are driving through the Canterbury region this weekend, the state highways and local roads will have traffic management and speed restrictions as work is ongoing after the extreme rainfall. Crews will be out and about in several places. The road surface may be rough and have potholes in places – slow down if in doubt.

The Ashburton River/Hakatere Bridge on SH1 is open to traffic (light vehicles and trucks but not vehicles with an Overweight permit) between 7am – 7pm (daytime) but restricted to light vehicles only overnight, 7pm – 7am.

Detour for trucks at night on the Ashburton River/Hakatere Bridge

The detour for heavy vehicles after 7pm is via Arundel-Rakaia Gorge Road/Inland Scenic Route.  There is damage along this route, particularly between Ashburton Staveley Road and Forks Road, so please follow the signposted speed limits and drive with care. 

As drivers approach the Orari River from the north, take a left onto SH79 the Rangitata-Orari Bridge Highway to Rangitata township at SH1. Then follow SH1. 

Drivers should avoid the Upper Orari Bridge to keep traffic free flowing and Route72 to Winchester which is badly damaged. 

NOTE: If you are planning on towing a trailer or caravan overnight, your combined vehicle must not exceed 3500kg to qualify for using the Ashburton bridge overnight. This weight restriction may exclude some motorhomes.

Porter’s Pass, SH73

State Highway 73 between Canterbury and the West Coast was reopened last night.

“We’re advising all drivers to take extra care over Porter’s Pass in the coming days as we expect the road to be icy. There will be traffic management crews on this highway, so we ask that drivers slow down around them and leave extra time for your journey,” Ms Forrester says.

For all journey information including links to the wider Canterbury local road status, drivers should also visit Journey Planner for real-time updates.

“Across the whole South Island quite different conditions can affect our roads over the same weekend, so people need to be prepared and stay alert. Take regular breaks and have food, water and warm clothing in your car in case you need to stay put at any stage.”

Brass Monkey Rally – Central Otago/ Otago busy routes

With the Brass Monkey Rally in Central Otago this weekend, expect to see an increase in motorcycles on SH1 from Picton to Bluff, SH6 down the West Coast and over the Haast Pass, and all the Otago highways, in particular SH8, Cromwell to Milton, SH85 through Palmerston and SH87 Mosgiel to Kyeburn via Middlemarch.

  • Please take care around motorcyclists and give them extra room.

Helpful tool

Waka Kotahi has a handy ‘trip hack’ to help plan your travel and make your journey safer and more enjoyable. The Waka Kotahi holiday journeys tool(external link) shows predicted peak traffic times on popular routes over the Queen’s Birthday weekend, based on previous years’ travel patterns. Drivers can use the tool to check the predicted peak traffic times and decide what time to head off.

Winter driving tips:

  • Check weather and travel conditions before you start your trip and on breaks throughout your journey – use the Journey Planner. If extreme weather or treacherous road conditions are forecast, consider whether you really need to travel.
  • Call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).
  • Ensure your car is safe and equipped: spare tyre, warrant of fitness up-to-date, lights, brakes and wind-wipers all working, clean windscreen inside and out, check tyre treads to ensure good grip.
  • If you are travelling long distances, share the driving and have regular breaks.
  • Wear your seat belt throughout the journey and check your passengers have theirs clicked in too.
  • Driving on roads that are exposed to snow and ice can be treacherous, so slow down and drive to the conditions, not the maximum legal speed limit. Increase the following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
  • Be prepared when travelling in case of delays on the road, particularly in alpine conditions. Make sure you have warm clothes/food/water/charged mobile phone. In an emergency, phone 111. Bear in mind some parts of our highways have no cell coverage.
  • Learn about winter driving, including how to get your vehicle ready and if you are driving in an area where chains may be needed, practise putting them on before you go so you are not caught out. 

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey. Keep up to date with: