Project introduction

The Kawarau Falls Bridge is an essential link on SH6 south of Queenstown. Commercial development growth on Frankton Flats has been a big contributor to increasing the amount of traffic on this single lane bridge and at times, it doesn’t have the capacity to manage these volumes.

Frankton Flats Traffic Improvement Work 2015 -2021

We have a number of projects on the go please take a look at our project map [JPG, 381 KB] to see if this may affect your journey.


To construct a modern two-lane bridge on SH6 over the Kawarau River at Frankton. The bridge will reduce traffic congestion, increase safety and provide more secure southern highway access into the Wakatipu Basin.


  • The new bridge helps address pressing short to medium term traffic growth issues in the Frankton Flats area
  • When completed the new bridge will offer more predictable journey times
  • Provide more secure highway access south of Queenstown with a modern bridge that’s less vulnerable to extended closures
  • Deliver better road access to Queenstown International Airport, the Frankton Flats area and central Queenstown
  • Help ensure the safer and more efficient movements of freight, services and people south of Queenstown
  • Better access to the Wakatipu lakeside cycling and walking track network
  • Easier access to the historic dam structure

About the project

The new bridge will provide:

  • two full traffic lanes
  • sealed shoulders suitable for cycling
  • footpath on one side of the bridge
  • an enhanced southern highway entrance to Queenstown

The new two-lane bridge will be built just downstream from the existing bridge with a modified northern approach from Frankton. The southern approach will tie in with the present highway that runs along the river bank. It will be approximately 250 metres long and 14 metres wide constructed on a curve with a 163 metre radius and designed to withstand a once in every 2,500 year earthquake.

The new bridge design comprises four steel beams spanning between single column piers located 45 metres apart, with a slim superstructure that compliments the form of the existing dam structure. Guardrails that meet safety requirements will maximise the views of the river for bridge users.

Current bridge facts

  • The average daily two-way traffic count in 2016 on the existing single bridge was 8,598 vehicles.
  • Between 2012 and 2016 there were two recorded crashes near the bridge resulting in a minor injury plus eight recorded non-injury crashes

Project update

The bridge alignment selected during the project investigation phase received minor adjustments during the preliminary design work (Specimen Design) to maximise the separation of the new bridge from the existing bridge/dam structure.

Consents needed from the Otago Regional Council to build the new bridge have been obtained and contain conditions to protect the environment. The appeals on the Notice of Requirement to alter the State highway designation were withdrawn in November 2013 enabling the Environment Court to confirm the designation.

The Government announced in June 2014 through its regional roading  package that funding would be available to enable a start on constructing the new bridge in 2014/1(external link).

Expressions of interest were sought for the Design and Construction of the bridge and five national contractors were selected. Two withdrew before tenders closed but three very  strong bids were received at the end of June 2015. McConnell Dowell Constructors were awarded the Design and Construct  contract in early September 2015.

Community engagement

In 2001 a Scoping Report identified eight potential options for a new river bridge at Kawarau Falls. Consultation on these included public meetings and targeted consultation with interest groups. In 2003 a Scheme Assessment Report (SAR) was prepared considering four remaining options. Further consultation resulted in a preferred option for the new bridge being identified.

In 2005 an addendum to the Scheme Assessment Report  was commissioned to review and confirm the preferred option. As part of that review, further analysis was undertaken including a full geotechnical investigation. Consultation was undertaken with the affected parties as part of the preparation of resource consents to permit the geotechnical investigation in the river and on the river banks.

A public open day was held in Frankton in December 2011 as part of the preparation of the Notice of Requirement and resource consents for the new bridge construction.  The Notice of Requirement enabled the present State highway designation to be altered to accommodate construction of the new bridge, then its operation as part of the highway network.

Following a public hearing in February 2013 before Commissioners appointed by Queenstown Lakes District Council, a decision was issued. The was appealed, but the Environment Court confirmed the decision with some minor changes and the altered designation is now part of the District Plan. 

What can be expected?

The structure of the new two-lane bridge is largely complete and the temporary construction trestles used to build the bridge have been removed.

The focus over the final quarter of 2017 is on constructing the bridge approaches and fitting new water and waste water pipes under the bridge. This job is being carried out on behalf of the Queenstown Lakes District Council. Meanwhile, work on the northern bridge approach along with the cycling and pedestrian underpass is progressing well. To the south, the pipelines are progressing from Peninsula Road along the approach to the new bridge.

Expect two-way traffic from mid-December 2017 to early January 2018 over Kawarau Falls by using the existing one-lane bridge and a single lane of the new bridge. This two-way flow will help improve traffic movement at a major traffic pressure point on the local highway network during the busy Christmas/New Year holiday period.

The new bridge will carry two-way traffic from early April. The entire project including commissioning the water and waste water pipelines, landscaping and converting the existing bridge to a walking and cycling route will be completed by June 2018. The existing historic one-lane will be transformed into a walking and cycling route as part of the Wakatipu Ride. It will greatly enhance the Queenstown Trails Network and provide an attractive meeting point for cyclists and pedestrians. Signage explaining the history of the area, including both Māori and European settlement, will be provided.

Until the new two-lane bridge is built, the existing bridge will continue to operate safely without any vehicle weight restrictions.