As a key freight and transport hub, the Manawatū-Whanganui region is important for the economic prosperity of Aotearoa. Improving safety, resilience and access in the region is a focus for investment through the 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP).

SH1 and SH3 intersect in the region, as do the main north-south and east-west rail lines. Several major distribution centres are operating or being developed in the region, which rely on good access to ports and/or airports.

The Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project to reconnect Manawatū, the Tararua district, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa is a significant project to replace the closed SH3 Manawatū Gorge Road.

The NZ Upgrade Programme (NZUP) is investing $1.5 billion to construct a new four-lane highway from Ōtaki to north of Levin (Ō2NL), supporting growth in Levin and providing a safer and more resilient route. The project includes a separated shared path alongside the new highway.

SH4 is a major trade corridor through the central North Island as well as a scenic tourist route. Work continues on this road to complete important repair works following widespread flood damage and a large slip about 19km south of the rural township of Raetihi. A temporary road is open at the slip site at Te Oreore, with work on a new permanent road expected to begin in the 2022-23 construction season.

Keeping the land transport system well-maintained and safe is a large part of the NLTP investment in the Manawatū-Whanganui region. During the 2021-24 NLTP period, $335 million is forecast for maintenance and operations work across the country.  

Infrastructure improvements and speed management projects on State highways throughout the region are helping to make roads safer and more accessible. We’re identifying areas in the region for a new regional speed management plan and progressing some speed reviews under an interim plan.

We’re also working with our partners in the region to get more people out of their cars and using public transport, and/or walking and cycling. In both Palmerston North and Whanganui, our Streets for People funding is being used to create cities that are better to live in, using tactical urbanism.

The Palmerston North Integrated Transport Initiative (PNITI) is getting off the ground, being a package of short, medium and long-term transport and land use initiatives to achieve the region’s aspirations of being a strategic freight hub and distribution hub in the national supply chain.

Urban centres

Palmerston North has a strategic location in the region. New walking, cycling and public transport options are helping improve the resilience of the network and provide greater travel choice.

The NZ Upgrade Programme is investing $211 million in infrastructure upgrades to increase rail line capacity and support increased frequency of the Capital Connection train services. The package includes the refurbishment of the rail carriages and a range of safety improvements.

We have completed the PNITI business case and identified a preferred route for a freight ring road to provide a safer, more effective connection between some of the region’s key industrial areas and improve access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Regional funding from our national Streets for People 2021-24 programme will be spent in Whanganui and Palmerston North to accelerate delivery of innovative changes to streets.

Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua highway

Since April 2017, SH3 through the Manawatū Gorge has been closed because of slip damage. A safe, resilient, and efficient replacement route – the $620 million Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project – is being built over the Ruahine Range between Woodville and Ashhurst.

Construction on Te Ahu a Turanga began in January 2021 and is progressing well.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the project’s workforce and supply chain. Wet weather throughout summer has also created delays. Despite this, in May 2022 the project’s three millionth cubic metre of earth was moved, marking the halfway point for site earthworks.

A total of 250,000 riparian and wetland native plants were planted during the project’s first planting season in 2021, and several thousand more in second planting season during May 2022. Considerable progress has made on the six structures along the alignment since construction began.

This project has a strong focus on creating positive regional outcomes, including a locals-first approach to recruitment; new housing for project workers that will then be made available to the community; opportunities for local business; building local capability through training and upskilling; and iwi represented at governance, management and operational levels.

In the last 12 months

  • Major repairs were completed at most of the sites damaged by flooding on SH4 between Whanganui and Raetihi: Hapokopoko Rock Cure, Whiskey Corner, South Raupiu Retreat, Otoko Pā, and Kukuta Underslip. Work is progressing well at the final major repair site, at Auraki Stream.
  • Work progressed on the detailed business case for the $1.5 billion NZ Upgrade Programme-funded 24km four-lane Ōtaki to North of Levin new highway and shared use path.
  • Early improvement works to make the road at Kuku on SH1 safer were largely completed.
  • A new roundabout at Queen Street on SH57 opened to traffic, and work progressed on stretches of edge barriers and painted wide centrelines on the road. The roundabout reduces speeds and improves traffic flows.
  • Safer speed limits were set on SH3 Napier Road between Palmerston North and Ashhurst, and progress made on the detailed design of safety improvements to infrastructure.
  • Deconstruction of the old Manawatū River Bridge on SH1 south of Foxton was completed. With few people walking or cycling across the bridge, a decision was made to prioritise the environmental benefits of removing the old bridge and piers, including flood management and the overall wellbeing of the river.
  • Across the region, several low-cost low-risk safety projects were completed, and a renewals programme was delivered on, including work on the SH3 Manawatu Gorge alternative routes (Saddle Road and the Pahiatua Track).  

Underway or about to start

  • A number of speed reviews are underway at various stages:
    • SH3 Napier Road extension of urban boundary 50km/h zone
    • SH56 Palmerston North to Ōpiki
    • SH1 Foxton to Levin
    • SH57 South of Levin to Shannon
    • SH1 Levin to Ōtaki
    • SH1 Bulls to Sanson
  • To progress the Ō2NL new highway, we’re continuing talks with landowners, planning for lodging consents, and progressing a programme business case for state highway revocation.
  • Infrastructure improvements are being designed for SH3 Napier Road, including new traffic signals, a widened centreline, improved walking and cycling facilities, pedestrian refuge islands, and stormwater facilities.
  • Additional safety improvements between Ōtaki and Levin, including median barriers, side barriers and wide centrelines, will be installed on SH1 during summer 2022-23.
  • Work on the final major repair site following flood damage on SH4, Auraki Stream, continues, being on track for completion mid-2023.  Work continues to prepare for construction of the new permanent road on SH4 across the Te Oreore site, including completing property agreement, cultural impact assessment and resource consent processes.
  • Three safety improvement infrastructure projects are getting underway between Bulls and Sanson: a new roundabout at Pukenui Rd (the turnoff to Ōhakea), the relocation and construction of a new commercial vehicle safety centre, and a shared user path between Bulls and Ōhakea.
  • Further walking and cycling projects at Raurimu, Whangaehu and Longburn are in the design phase.
  • Investigations into the existing Ashhurst Bridge structure are ongoing. When the Te Ahu a Turanga project is completed, a shared path here will provide safe passage for the growing communities on both sides of the Manawatū River.

Funding overview

NLTP Investment in 2021/22 Forecast investment for 2021-24
Total $361 million $1.3 billion
Maintenance and operations  $123 million $381 million
Public transport investment $8 million $33 million
Walking and cycling $2.1 million $27 million
Road to Zero (safety)  $17 million $73 million
Network improvements  $169 million $502 million

Overview map

Manawatu Whanganui map 2022

View larger map [PDF, 832 KB]