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Project introduction

This project will improve safety for road users on the stretch of State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Wellsford.

December 2021

The Central project team are currently processing community feedback about safety improvements at intersections near Waipū township. We intend to share an engagement report and alternative design options in early 2022. Planning and preparation work continues on the Northern and Southern projects.

  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status


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Making the road safer

The 80km stretch of SH1 from Whangārei to Wellsford is classified as a high-risk rural road. From 2008 to 2017, 41 people lost their lives and 122 were seriously injured on the road.

Most serious crashes between Whangārei and Wellsford involved drivers losing control of their vehicle or hitting another vehicle head on, as well as crashes at intersections. 

We want to make the road safer and more forgiving of human error to help prevent further deaths and serious injuries.

SH1 between Whangārei and Wellsford is considered a strategic state highway, connecting the Auckland and Northland regions. An average of up to 17,000 vehicles use the road every day, including up to 2550 heavy vehicles.

Over the next 30 years continued development of the forestry and tourism industries is expected to drive Northland’s growth and will cause increased pressure in terms of safety on this road.

What we are doing

Because the road is so long, this project has been split into three sections:

  • northern section – SH1 Whangārei to SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway
  • central section – SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway to the northern base of the Brynderwyn Hills
  • southern section – SH1/SH12 Brynderwyn Hills to SH1 Wellsford, excluding the townships of Te Hana and Kaiwaka.

Our initial focus is on the northern section because of the higher number of deaths and serious injuries on this busier stretch of SH1. 

The improvements we are looking at include: 

  • side and median flexible safety barriers to stop your vehicle before you hit something harder like a tree, power pole or an oncoming vehicle 
  • wide centrelines to steer drivers away from each other 
  • better signs and road markings to warn drivers of upcoming intersections, stop signs or sharp curves
  • safer speeds to allow drivers time to react to a mistake and recover.

Ahead of making these improvements, 10km of wide centreline with safe hit posts were installed in June 2018 on SH1 between Toetoe Road and Oakleigh Wharf Road. This was done to deter deliberate overtaking manoeuvres, which are the leading cause of head-on crashes. Since these improvements were made, there have been no head-on crashes on this section of SH1.

Long-term Whangārei to Auckland programme

What's happening and when

Northern section

For the northern section between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway, the government has instructed Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail to deliver an option that focuses on safety improvements along the existing state highway and a new rail line to Northport. This is being funded through the NZ Upgrade Programme.

Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail are now working together to further develop the NZUP project for consideration by Ministers. This will include confirming the scope, costs and timelines for the re-scoped project, as well as carrying out economic analysis.

New Zealand Upgrade Programme – Northland Package

Central section

Detailed design work is underway with an expected completion date of June 2022.

Geotechnical investigations along the state highway corridor begin in June 2021.

Southern section

Detailed design work is underway with an expected completion date of June 2022.

Geotechnical investigations along the state highway corridor begin in June 2021.