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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.

  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status


Project updates

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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

Construction of the northern section safety improvements will get underway in early 2021.

Summary of planned improvements for this section [PDF, 161 KB]

The section of SH1 between Toetoe Road and Portland Road will be delivered as part of the SH1 Loop Road Safety Improvements project, which is currently under construction.

Planning for an upgraded 22km four-lane corridor along the northern section is underway as part of the SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway project. However, because of the length of time required to complete the four-laning (approximately eight years), it is important that safety improvements are put in place in the interim.

SH1 Loop Road Safety Improvements(external link)

SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway(external link)

Central section

Design work will begin shortly.

Southern section

Design work will begin shortly.