Winter driving with the long Queens Birthday Weekend ahead


With a long public holiday weekend ahead, the NZ Transport Agency encourages drivers to take extra care and be patient, particularly if they are driving long distances in wintry conditions.

Rain has fallen steadily across parts of the South Island from Fiordland to Takaka this week, with more forecast and cold temperatures likely for the first official day of winter in the South Island.

Snow possible

The MetService(external link) says snow is a possibility on the South Island’s alpine areas/ ranges.

While Transport Agency highway crews will be monitoring past trouble spots with machines ready, people should also be ready for winter conditions, says Transport Agency Journey Manager Tresca Forrester.

Managing the alpine passes

The Transport Agency’s management of the alpine passes (Lewis and Arthur’s) and Haast Pass in South Westland will be the same this winter as last winter.

  • SH7 Lewis Pass and Rahu Saddle (near Reefton) will be Open or Closed.
  • SH6 Haast Pass to Makarora in Otago will be Open or Closed.
  • SH73 Springfield to Otira (ie both Arthur’s and Porters Passes) will be managed using “Chains essential/no towing vehicles allowed” if snow is falling but not so much to close the highway.

“The reason for the Open or Closed system (ie not giving drivers the option of putting chains on their tyres) is to allow contractors to clear the highway as quickly, efficiently and as safely as possible with no traffic on the route. It also ensures they do not have to use up time dealing with any stuck or stranded vehicles, which creates its own safety risks, particularly in dark and cold conditions,” says Ms Forrester.

“We encourage everyone just to pause before a winter journey and go through the safety checklist – a few minutes on planning may well save your life.”

Queen’s Birthday Weekend events – take care around slower vehicles and motorcyclists

Otago: Brass Monkey Rally(external link) in Oturehua, Central Otago.

South Canterbury: Irishman's Rally - expect to see vintage cars and drivers in the Mackenzie District around Fairlie over the weekend.

Long weekend travel

You can plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable Queen’s Birthday long weekend with the help of our interactive holiday journeys map link)

The map shows predicted traffic flow across popular journeys over the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend based on previous years travel patterns. 

Winter driving tips

  • Check weather and travel conditions on highways before you start your trip and on breaks throughout your journey - use link) or 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.
  • If you are travelling long distances, share the driving and have regular breaks.
  • Everyone should be protected by wearing a seat belt throughout the journey.
  • Driving on roads that are exposed to snow and ice can be treacherous, so slow down and drive to the conditions, not the allowable/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.
  • Learn about winter driving, including how to get your vehicle ready and how to put on snow chains at
  • If extreme weather or treacherous road conditions are forecast, consider whether you really need to travel.

More helpful advice:

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