$751 million 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.

With Northland’s economy reliant on dairy, forestry, farming and horticulture, our investment in the region’s transport system during the 2021–24 NLTP will be to help create a safe, resilient network to get goods to export markets.

These primary industries remain critical for Northland’s economic recovery post-COVID 19. Tourism is bouncing back, making the development of Northland’s Twin Coast Discovery Route critical to support local recovery.

With about 70% of Northland’s population living outside the region’s major centre, Whangārei, there is a high dependency on travel by public vehicle to access essential services, such as healthcare, education and training.

Public transport is not a travel option outside Whangārei and Kaitaia, the region’s dispersed population relying on a safe, reliable roading network to stay connected.

According to Statistics NZ, Northland’s population is growing faster than any other region – more than 18% in the five years to 2018. It is forecast to reach 197,000 by 2043. This population growth is unevenly dispersed across the region, and with industry changes because of climate change, and New Zealand’s transition to a low-emission economy, will lead to changes in land use for this predominately rural community, as horticulture use increases and traditional farming usage shrinks.

Key transport routes such as State Highway 1 (SH1) will continue to be critical in connecting Northland’s towns and communities. The network north of Auckland must be safe, resilience, reliable and accessible for the region to be more attractive to visitors, both domestic and overseas, and as a place for people to live and work.


Northland has a poor safety record, with a disproportionately high number of deaths and serious injuries.

During the next three years, $103 million will be spent throughout Northland to improve safety across a number of corridors to reduce annual deaths and serious injuries (DSI) by 10.

Along 80km of SH1 from Whangārei to Wellsford, which is a high-risk rural road, we will invest in safety improvements along three sections to reduce deaths and serious injuries.

The work has been split into three areas:

  • Northern section (SH1 Whangārei to SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway). Funded by the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, a detailed business case will be fast tracked to determine the most appropriate targeted safely interventions on this section.
  • Central section (SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway to north of Brynderwyn Hills). The work includes installing new safety barriers, wider centrelines, better signage, improved road markings and safer speeds.
  • Southern section (SH1/SH12 Brynderwyn Hills to SH1 Wellsford). The work includes installing new safety barriers, wider centrelines, better signage, improved road markings and safer speeds.

On SH10 between Kaeo to Pakaraka, a project stretching 40km and involving widening the centreline and adding a median barrier will cost $27 million to undertake design and start construction in the next NLTP and is estimated to save more than two deaths and serious injuries per year on project completion.

Speed reviews across Northland will look to set speed limits that are more suitable for the roads and safer for users, helping to minimise the severity of crashes.

A $32 million project building a two-lane bridge and roundabout at the intersection of SH10 and Whangaroa Road in Kaeo will improve safety and traffic flow along this section of the Twin Coast Discovery Route renowned as a bottleneck.

Safety improvements at the SH1/State Highway 15 Loop Road intersection and SH1/Portland Road intersection will make travel safer across the state highway network south of Whangārei. This section of SH1 carries 19,000 vehicles a day of which 13% are heavy freight, including trucks carrying export logs to Northport at Marsden Point.

Working in partnership with key agencies, such as NZ Police, we will deliver an enforcement and behaviour change programme targeted at speed, alcohol and drug impairment, as well as wearing seat belts.

Lower speed limits will be introduced on state highways near schools, improving safety and encouraging more children to walk and cycle to school. Across the region, over $18 million will be invested in low cost low risk safety projects.

Better freight connections

SH1 between Whangārei and Auckland and the North Auckland rail corridor are recognised as nationally significant routes for freight, connecting Northland with critical local and export markets.

During the next three years, we’ll continue to investigate and make improvements on SH1 between Whangārei and Wellsford, ensuring this supports the NZ Upgrade Programme investment to upgrade capacity along the North Auckland rail corridor and the development of rail to Marsden Point. This work will be supplemented with further upgrades to the rail line between Otiria and Whangārei, enabling it to carry 18 tonne axle load trains. It builds on existing projects to upgrade and widen tunnels on the rail line between Swanson and Whangārei, and for planned work between Whangārei and Otiria.

This supports the priority of ensuring freight is carried by the most suitable form of transport, whether road, rail or coastal shipping to help achieve safety and environmental outcomes.

$344 million is forecast to be spent on road maintenance across the region in 2021–24. This will be invested in the maintenance and operation of the network to support freight and tourism connections.

Under the 2021–24 RNIP, work will be undertaken to increase the resilience of the North Auckland Line to support reliable freight connections. Two rail bridges will be replaced and resilience works carried out on a third. In addition, 1km of track will be re-sleepered and 4km of track re-railed, along with civil works to improve formation and drainage.

Significant upgrade work has already taken place on the Northland Line (PGF-funded) to improve resilience and allow it to carry modern shipping containers, with more work planned to reopen and upgrade the mothballed line north of Kauri (PGF/NZUP) from 2022. Planning is underway to build a new spur line to Northport, funded by NZUP.

Better travel options

Shared paths for walking and cycling are being built in Whangārei and are programmed to be built in Mangawhai to encourage more people to walk and cycle between residential areas, to access education and recreation facilities and to connect local shopping areas.

The $6.2 million northern section of the Whangārei 4.7km Kamo Shared Path extension and the Tikipunga shared path will be built during the next three years. These will connect a number of schools as well as residential areas north of the city through to the Whangārei CBD, the Auckland University campus, and off-road links to key recreational areas such as Kensington Park.

The $14 million Mangawhai Shared Path in Kaipara will connect different parts of the town, from the school to the beach, improving safety and making it easier to travel by foot, bike, or scooter along a part of busy Molesworth Drive. Improvements to the village have already been made as part of the Innovating Streets programme.

There will be $6 million invested in an integrated land use and transport programme business case for Whangārei to improve urban form and transform urban mobility.

Climate change

Climate change is expected to result in greater disruption across the network in coming years. The expected hotter, drier summers will increase dust issues with a high proportion of the region’s roads being unsealed, while sea level rise and the increased frequency and intensity of storm events is expected to result in greater access issues.

Ten major and extreme risks have been identified across Northland, the most significant being SH1 from the Brynderwyn Hills to Whangārei which is often affected by both landslips and flooding. The Brynderwyn Hill risk will be considered via the Port Marsden Highway to Te Hana Detailed Business Case. The Otiria stream catchment flow has been managed recently as part of the $5 million spillway project led by Northland Regional Council.

Greater urbanisation in Whangārei provides an opportunity to shift more trips onto public transport, walking and cycling. This is supported with further investment into shared paths and improved public transport infrastructure and services, including over $1 million invested to support bus priority lanes, rural services and more frequent services.

Working together

Working in partnership with Northland councils and others, we’re looking at how we can get the most from the region’s existing land transport system and offer greater travel choice throughout the region.

We’re part of the Northern Transportation Alliance, a collaboration between the Whangārei, Kaipara and Far North District Councils, Northland Regional Council and Waka Kotahi to deliver combined transportation services for Northland.

Further investment in integrated transport strategies and programme business cases that integrate with future development strategies will help with the development of a transport system that more easily connects new communities and offers alternative travel options to private vehicle use. We will continue to collaborate with Northland councils in their endeavours to better integrate land use and transport planning through their spatial planning and future development strategies.

An urban growth partnership is being explored for the corridor between the Bay of Islands and Warkworth. We will continue to work with local government, central government and iwi, to achieve better urban and transport outcomes for the region.

Investment highlights for 2021–24

  • Significant investment in a number speed and infrastructure improvements along prioritised state highways (particularly along SH1 and SH10) and local roads. This is supported by investment from the NZ Upgrade Programme for targeted safety upgrades along the SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway route.
    SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway
  • $32m committed for completing of the replacement of the one-lane Kaeo Bridge with a two-lane bridge and roundabout intersection, making journeys safer and improving economic outcomes for communities in the Kaeo area.
    SH10 Kaeo Bridge
  • $6.3m committed for the completion of design and construction of the northern section of the Kamo Shared Path extension, a Whangārei District Council project to create a network of shared paths for walking and cycling between residential areas, education, recreation and shops.
  • $14m committed for the Mangawhai Shared Path Network, a Kaipara District Council project to create a network of shared paths for walking and cycling between residential areas, education, recreation and shops.
  • $2m for safety improvements at Murphy’s Bend on Ngunguru Road.
  • The NZ Upgrade Programme will fund the 19km rail spur to the port at Marsden Point and upgrading the line between Whangārei and Otira to handle heavier trains.

Summary of achievements from 2018–21

  • A new roundabout at Loop Road (north) and intersection improvements at the SH1/Portland Road intersection are improving safety and traffic flow south of Whangārei.
  • SH1 Tarewa Road intersection improvements were completed, improving traffic flow and safety with new traffic lights and double lanes for north and southbound traffic.
  • Replacement of one-lane bridges at Taipā and Matakohe have enhanced those communities and the road network.
  • A spillway at Otiria Stream (constructed in partnership with Northland Regional Council) mitigated the flood risk on a crucial 100m stretch of SH1 at Moerewa.
  • A decaying seawall at Ōpononi was repaired and extended to reduce erosion and protect the section of SH12 running along the edge of Hokianga Harbour.

Read about a few of the ways that previous investment has delivered for Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) communities and New Zealand