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 connect Manawatū, Tararua, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa is a significant project to replace the closed SH3 Manawatū Gorge Road. Saddle Road and the Pahiatua Track are important alternative routes in the interim, connecting with SH2 which is a critical route to the Hawke’s Bay and further afield.

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 Parapara Road is an important trade corridor through the central North Island, as well as a scenic tourist route. The road has been significantly impacted by weather events in the last decade, including Cyclone Gabrielle, and we’re undertaking remediation work at multiple sites along the route.

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, $432 million is forecast for maintenance and operations work across the region.

Infrastructure improvements and speed management 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.

Urban centres

In Palmerston North, new walking, cycling and public transport options are helping improve the resilience of the network and provide greater travel choice.

The Palmerston North Integrated Transport Initiative (PNITI) is a package of projects designed to support growth of freight distribution in the region while also improving transport safety and choice for the residents and visitors of Palmerston North.

Our Streets for People 2021-24 programme is funding three projects delivered by Whanganui District Council and Palmerston North City Council which aim to make it safer, easier and more attractive for people to walk, ride bikes or scooters and take public transport, and to improve road safety. These projects will be completed by June 2024.

As part of the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) programme (a direct Crown-funded programme), the Transport Choices package is also working with Ruapehu District Council, Whanganui District/Horizons Regional Councils, Tararua District Council, Palmerston North City Council and Horowhenua District Council. Projects are aimed at improving public transport infrastructure, creating new separated cycleways and safer, more accessible paths for children, and footpath improvements.

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

Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway

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

Construction began in January 2021 and is progressing well. Completion is expected mid-2025.

The project has faced a range of challenges, including wet weather, engineering complexities and the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce and supply chain. Despite this, by June 2023 the project had moved more than 5.7 million cubic metres of earth and was close to completing the total site earthworks. Pavement construction got underway in June 2023, with the first aggregate being laid on completed earthworks sections.

More than 870,000 riparian and wetland native plants have been planted throughout the region since the start of construction, with the first plants going in along the side of the highway in 2023. Considerable progress has been made on the six structures along the alignment since construction began, with the three underpasses now structurally complete.

This project has a strong focus on creating positive regional outcomes, including a locals-first approach to recruitment; opportunities for local business; building local capability through training and upskilling; sponsoring local schools, charities and community organisations and having iwi represented at governance, management and operational levels.

Completed in the last 12 months

  • In the 2022/23 summer maintenance season, our contractors completed 20 full rebuilds of sections of roads needing renewal across Manawatū/Whanganui. This was in addition to the over 90 sections of road we completed reseals on. Important maintenance work was also completed on the SH3 Manawatū Gorge alternative routes.
  • A significant milestone was reached in the Auraki Stream road retreat project on SH4 Parapara Road, with traffic moved to the new road’s southbound lane in June 2023, following completion of the main earthworks. All work is expected to be complete by August 2023 (weather dependent).
  • The urban boundary 50km/h zone was extended on SH3 Napier Road in Palmerston North. Safer speed limits were set on SH57 between Levin and Shannon and on SH1 between Ōtaki and Ohau.
  • Works were fully completed on the Whirokino Trestle and Manawatū River Bridge project in May 2023, including the completion of the northern abutment memorial and new northern and southern rest areas.
  • The SH1 Rangatira resilience project was completed, involving the construction of shotcrete retaining walls to stabilise the site where there was significant scour.
  • SH57 safety improvements at Levin were completed, including wide centreline, stretches of side barrier and a roundabout at Queen Street East.

Underway or about to start

  • The Ōtaki to north of Levin (Ō2NL) new highway and walking and cycling path project reached a key milestone with resource consent applications lodged with the relevant councils in November 2022. Community engagement is ongoing, including through regular drop-in sessions.
  • Detailed design was completed for safety improvements on SH1 between Levin and Foxton. Construction is expected to start later this year.
  • Safety improvements between SH1 Ōtaki and Ohau are progressing, with the first phase of work between Ōtaki and Manakau. Three turnaround bays and stretches of median and side barriers will be installed between Ōtaki and Manakau. Further design investigations for the next phase of safety improvement works between Manakau and Ohau are underway.
  • 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.
  • Enabling works at Te Oreore slip site on SH4 Parapara Road got underway in February 2023 (construction of three retaining walls and drilling and construction of two new dewatering wells). This work safeguards the area while we continue to prepare for construction of the new permanent road.  
  • Construction started in May 2023 for a safety improvement project on SH1/3 between Bulls and Sanson – a new roundabout at Pukenui Rd (the turnoff to RNZAF Base Ohakea). A shared user path between Bulls and Ohakea is also being constructed as part of the project.
  • Further walking and cycling projects on SH4 at Raurimu, SH3 in Palmerston North at Te Matai Rd, SH3 at Whangaehu, and SH56 at Longburn are in investigation/design phases.
  • Investigations into a shared user path at the Ashhurst Bridge are ongoing. A shared path here will provide safe passage to and from Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway for the growing communities on both sides of the Manawatū River.
  • Investigations into safety improvements on SH3 between Whanganui and Bulls, including median barrier and turnaround bays, are underway.
  • Safety improvements are planned for the intersection of SH3 Rangitikei Street and Featherston Street, to make it safer for everyone who uses it by looking at installing raised safety platforms. The project, in conjunction with Palmerston North City Council’s Featherston Street safety upgrade project (funded by Waka Kotahi), will see pedestrian improvements and upgrades to the existing cycleway in the wider Featherston Street area.
  • A range of safety improvements are planned for four sections of state highway in the Central North Island. The areas identified are: SH2 Woodville to Mangatainoka, SH3 Nukumaru to Whanganui, SH1 Mangaweka to Vinegar Hill and SH1 Taihape to Mangaweka. Safety improvements include new and improved signage, side barriers, and improved road markings such as rumble strips. This work is being delivered as part of Road to Zero and is planned to take place between September 2023 and April 2024.

Funding overview

NLTP – Manawatū-Whanganui

Investment in 2022/23

Forecast investment for 2021-24


$451 million

$1.4 billion

Maintenance and operations

$163 million

$432 million

Public transport investment

$9.5 million

$34 million

Walking and cycling

$4.3 million

$31 million

Road to Zero (safety)

$17 million

$95 million

Network improvements

$199 million

$508 million


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