The strategic case for SH1 Picton to Christchurch covers the geographical area between Picton, in Marlborough, and Belfast in Christchurch. This is a 320km section of SH1 with an average journey time of approximately four hours. It includes the main urban areas of Picton, Blenheim, Kaikōura, Amberley and Woodend. It has steep hilly sections at Weld Pass, the Seddon Hills, the Hundalee Hills and the Cheviot Hills. It also has long narrow windy sections along the Kaikōura coast.
SH1 is classified as a national strategic route and is a high productivity motor vehicle (HPMV) route. There are important connections and tourism destinations in Nelson, Tasman, the West Coast, Kaikōura and Hanmer Springs.
This section of SH1 is also a local purpose route, with forestry and agricultural vehicles in heavy use for beef and sheep farming throughout the region, horticulture and viticulture around Blenheim, the Awatere Valley and the Waipara Valley, and forestry and tourism in Kaikōura.
Several Transport Agency plans recognise this route and the adjacent rail corridor along the east coast of the South Island as the primary freight route linking the North Island and the South Island via the interisland ferries that run between Wellington and Picton. The draft South Island Freight Plan identifies substantial increases in freight are forecast in the longer term.