$1.3 billion forecast total investment

In September 2021 a record $24.3 billion investment in Aotearoa’s land transport system was announced as part of Ngā Kaupapa Huarahi o Aotearoa (2021–24 National Land Transport Programme).

Activities funded through the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) aim to make New Zealand’s roads safer and more resilient, provide you with healthier, more environmentally friendly ways to move to the places that matter to you and keep freight flowing.

Investment in the Manawatū/Whanganui region during the 2021–24 NLTP will strengthen the region’s position as an important freight hub connecting the central North Island while also supporting the local economy, regional development and urban growth.

The Manawatū/Whanganui region is a major distribution centre for goods, relying on having access to good transport connections to domestic markets, and airports and ports, including the nearby Napier Port (the largest export port in the lower North Island).

During this NLTP, we’ll progress work on the new state highway between Ashhurst and Woodville – Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway Project. When completed, the new highway will strengthen connections for the region by providing people and products with a reliable route through to Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay).

We’ll also be improving resilience, helping make the system safer and more accessible through a range of safety improvements, while also supporting urban and regional growth and planning for the future.

To further manage the impacts of climate change, we’ll continue to work with our partners to get more people out of their cars and using public transport, and or walking and cycling.

Improving safety

About $81 million will be invested in the region during the next three years to make state highways safer through infrastructure improvements and speed management to reduce annual deaths and serious injuries on the region’s roads by 11.

This includes safety improvements on the state highways around Levin, with planning underway for improvements to SH57, SH1 south to Ōtaki and SH1 north to the Manawatū River.

Safety improvements will be made to 37kms of SH1 to the north and south of Ōtaki, annually saving around six deaths and serious injuries.

Work is also taking place on a range of safety improvements around Bulls on SH3 and SH1, as well as undertaking a speed review on this busy corridor. Speed reviews are also planned or underway from Palmerston North to Ashhurst.

Better travel options

Population growth in Palmerston North, Feilding and Levin has increased travel demand on the region’s networks and provides opportunities to move people around safely and easily in alternative modes of transport.

During this NLTP period investment will focus on increasing access to and use of public transport, including extending commuter rail services from Levin to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), providing people with a lower emission option for travelling to and from Wellington.

Public transport improvements including the Capital Connection rail upgrades will increase usage by providing more affordable transport options for those travelling to and from Palmerston North. Planning and consent work for Palmerston North’s Regional Freight Hub will also begin during this NLTP, which when complete will further reduce the pressure on the city’s roads, reduce congestion and improve safety for those travelling by foot and bike.

New walking and cycling infrastructure will continue to be delivered across the region, adding to the growing number of shared paths and cycle ways already completed. Te Tuaiwi (the spine), a three-metre-wide shared pathway in Whanganui is completed and links up to several other shared pathways, encouraging active travel to and from the river, the town centre and the suburbs.

We’ll invest $10 million for a clip-on for the SH3 Ashhurst Bridge. This will improve pedestrian and cycling safety and access into Te Ahu a Turanga, connecting to cycling lanes and the local network at either end.

Climate change

Climate change will continue to challenge the resilience of highways throughout the region such as SH4 through the central North Island. Closed by a 15-hectare slip in October 2019, the highway has been reinstated and work completed at a number of sites to strengthen resilience of the highway between Raetihi and Whanganui. Work continues during this NLTP at three locations.

Weather events, such as flooding and slips, are behind a number of risk areas in the region. The Manawatū Gorge has been closed by a landslide and during this NLTP we’ll be investigating future access opportunities along this route. Further investigation on the impact of climate change will also be completed on the flood-prone areas of SH3 at Whanghaehu and on SH2 at Mangatainoka during the three-year period.

The NZ Upgrade Programme-funded SH1 Ōtaki to north of Levin project will also strengthen route resilience for the region by reducing the risk of closures during weather events to this key national economic and social lifeline.

Improving freight connections

The $661 million Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua highway project to connect the region with Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay) and northern Wairarapa will boost regional economic growth, while helping provide a safer, more resilient route. Construction of the new highway is underway and expected to be completed in 2024.

The new four-lane Ōtaki to north of Levin corridor will also support reliable freight connections from the region, south to Wellington and to the Cook Strait ferries.

During this NLTP we are investing $3.3 million to maintain access and resilience along the alternative routes – Saddle Road and Pahīatua Track – between Palmerston North and Woodville, while the new highway is being built.

The Palmerston North Integrated Transport Improvements (PNITI) business case has been completed, setting out a 30-year programme of staged improvements to deliver safer access across the network for freight. This NLTP will see safety improvements on state highways and the initial stages of the Palmerston North Eastern Access for freight and the East/West Access ring road.

Work will be carried out this NLTP period on the Main North Island Truck Line providing both passenger and freight connections through the region. To improve resilience, Bridge 114 will be replaced, 36kms of track will be re-sleepered and 17kms of track re-railed, along with other track and civil infrastructure works to reduce derailment risks, improve drainage, stabilise slopes and improve river protection.

Safety enhancements will be achieved under this 2021–24 RNIP, with the upgrading of the two levels crossings at Clevely Line, Bunnythorpe, and Reserve Road, Longburn. In addition, supporting both safety and network efficiency, signals will be replaced at Tokomaru, Shannon, Ohau and Manakau.

Investment highlights for 2021–24

  • Ōtaki to north of Levin – more than $817m is being invested in a new four-lane highway from Ōtaki to north of Levin, supporting growth in Levin and providing a safer and more resilient route. The project is funded through the NZ Upgrade Programme, and includes a separated shared path alongside the length of the new highway.
  • Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway – $661m to design and construct Te Ahu Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project that will reconnect the Manawatū with Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay) and Tairāwhiti (Gisborne)
  • $2.7m for Roberts Line intersection improvements in Palmerston North
  • $1.2m for an ongoing package of improvements for Palmerston North bus services
  • Almost $3m for Gladstone Road resilience work, including 1.2km of road realignment and replacing five retaining walls.

Summary of achievements from 2018–21

  • SH1 Whirokino Trestle and Manawatū River Bridge – completion of the new bridge between Levin and Foxton has improved safety, resilience and reliability of this key freight route
  • Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway – work is underway on the new highway that will connect the Manawatū, Tararua district, Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay) and northern Wairarapa, providing a safer, more resilience route
  • He Ara Kotahi pathway – opened in Palmerston North, connecting Palmerston North City, Massey University and Linton
  • Completion of the Te Tuawai (The Spine) cycleway has provided a safe route across the Whanganui City Bridge
  • The new Upokongaro to City Cycleway has also opened. It forms part of the Mountains to Sea cycleway, from Ohakune through the National Park to Whanganui
  • Completion of a range of safety improvements across the region, including on SH57, from SH1 to Shannon; on SH4 Taumarunui to National Park; SH2 Ngawapurua to Manawatū/Whanganui boundary; SH4 Tōhunga Junction to Whanganui; SH3 Whangaehu to Bulls; and SH1 Bulls to Foxton. The work involved the installation of side barriers, road marking, shoulder widening and rumble strips at high-risk locations.

Read about a few of the ways that previous investment has delivered for Manawatū/Whanganui communities and New Zealand.