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Project introduction

The Waikare Gorge project includes a 4k realignment and a new 160m bridge across the Waikare Gorge on SH2 at Putorino (north of Napier). The project is part of a series of roading improvements on the East Coast to increase safety, resilience, and access for communities in the north of the region.

  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status

    Consenting, Design

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Project background

The Waikare Gorge safety realignment project has been identified as an important project on State Highway 2 (SH2) to make it safer and less likely to suffer closures. It also is seeking to become more accessible, by making travel times through the route more consistent for drivers and less likely to suffer from delays. This project is part of a package of projects in the Tairāwhiti region that have been identified for enabling economic growth in the region.

The 2018 Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS 2018) supports the economic development of regional New Zealand by increasing the focus on developing safe and resilient transport connections to support freight and tourism.

Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS)(external link)

The ability to fully-realise the region’s economic potential is dependent on an efficient and reliable roading network to major ports and markets.

The roading network in Tairāwhiti has a range of challenging natural environments which have been subjected to repeated serious weather events. To support economic development of the region, Tairāwhiti will need to go further than simply addressing the need for renewal and repair – it also needs to invest in improvements to its existing network that will support its economic action plan.

The Tairāwhiti Programme Business Case (PBC), approved in September 2017, was funded through Regional Economic Development funds in response to the Tairāwhiti Economic Action plan. The geographical scope of this PBC included the journey on SH2 between Napier and Ōpōtiki. The Waikare Gorge was identified as a key pinch point on that journey. It was seen by stakeholders as a project that could deliver a significant contribution to the programme outcomes.

The problems that are identified in the PBC are:

  • Safety: the unforgiving nature of terrain combined with typically long journeys and poor driver behaviour is resulting in high personal safety risk.
    Resilience: due to relative isolation and a lack of viable alternatives, when transport infrastructure is closed there is significant impact on communities and economic productivity.
  • Access: the nature of access in the region constrains the ability to realise community and economic opportunities.

About the project

The Waikare Gorge project is currently in the ‘specimen design and consenting’ phase. Lodgement of regional resource consent is scheduled for January 2023. Once the consenting and detailed design is complete, the project will be put forward for construction funding.

Construction funding can only be sought when the detailed design is 80% complete. Construction is currently estimated to take approximately three years, following approval of construction funding. The project is included in the Tairāwhiti Roading Package.

Project timeline

  • Current – ongoing engagement with iwi partners, landowners and councils
  • January 2023: Complete resource consent.

New alignment for Waikare Gorge

The map below shows the potential route the new state highway will go through.

View larger map [PDF, 164 KB]

The new alignment

During the initial engagement with stakeholders and the community the description of two alignments was mapped out ('Orange' and 'White'). Since then, our teams have gathered data using drone footage and created animations to help continue their analysis. The 'White' realignment has now been identified as the preferred alignment option.

'White' alignment

Frequently asked questions

  • What does the design process look like and what work has to be done for that?

    The design phase involves the development of a Specimen design to allow for resource consent submission. In this case, detailed design includes designing the geometric alignment of the new section of state highway. It involves set-up, planning, investigation, design and review, and helps ensure the project has been well-scoped and can be delivered on time, to budget and to a high standard.

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  • What steps are needed for the design to be done?

    Specimen design and resource consent application is expected to be complete mid next-year (June 2023). Specimen design involves a review of geotechnical investigation data for the site, the development of civil and structural plans, and resource consent application.

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  • How will the new bridge look like?

    An arch bridge has been confirmed as the preferred bridge solution. This design will minimise damage to the gorge face. At just over 160m long and more than 60m tall, it could be one of New Zealand’s highest road bridges once built.

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Our partners on this project