Project introduction

This safety improvements project is being delivered as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s Northland package which includes an investment in both rail and road. It is part of a wider package to improve safety for road users on the stretch of State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Wellsford.

Project background

Recently $270M funding was approved for safety improvements between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP).

We can now move beyond the business case into detailed design which includes planning where and how the safety measures will be implemented, where the turnaround bays will be, what the shared path will look will and considering other measures such as raised speed platforms and traffic lights.

Part of this includes engaging with communities to help inform and refine the detailed design, understand property impacts as well as the consenting and procurement processes for the project.

We’ll soon be in touch residents, communities, and key stakeholders in the coming months with opportunities to engage with the project team and provide feedback.

We expect to contact landowners with potential property impacts by late-2023.

Construction for the project is expected to begin in late-2025 subject to all necessary approvals.

As an interim safety intervention and to start saving lives as soon as possible, we will be installing flexible safety posts in the centre of the road between Toetoe Road and Port Marsden Highway. Construction will take approximately three months and will be phased to minimise disruption. We’re currently procuring for this work an expect it will be completed this year.

We will provide more information on an estimated project programme for both the long-term and short-term safety improvements in the coming months.

Why do we need this project?

State Highway 1 between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway is a critical route for Northland that connects the region with the rest of New Zealand. Between 13,000 and 25,000 vehicles use the road each day, including up to 2,550 freight vehicles.

The route has high traffic volumes and in places it’s windy, steep and difficult to safely turn into driveways and local roads.

The number of people who have died or been seriously injured on this stretch of road is tragic. In the past five years, 22 people have lost their lives and 73 people have been seriously injured in crashes along this stretch of highway.

Most of the crashes have been caused either by head-on collisions or by people turning onto or off the highway.

While people can make mistakes while driving, we believe no one should have to pay with their life.

The SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway safety improvements project aims to make the road safer and more forgiving of human error to help prevent further crashes or reduce the impact of crashes and ensure people get to their destination safely.

We will use a range of safety improvements including barrier systems, widened centrelines and better signage to improve safety on this route.

What we’re investigating to make the highway safer

Creating a safer and more forgiving road system is a team effort with lots of potential solutions to be considered. We’re listening to community feedback on this corridor to help inform the types of solutions we’re investigating to make the road safer. They will include:

  • Side and median flexible safety barriers to stop your vehicle before you hit something harder like a tree or a power pole or an oncoming vehicle.
  • Wider centre lines to keep drivers apart from each other.
  • Better signs and road markings to warn drivers of upcoming intersections, stop signs or sharp curves.
  • Intersection improvements to make access on and off the state highway from local roads safer.
  • Walking and cycling facilities in urban Whangārei to provide more travel choice and to separate people walking and on bikes from vehicles.

We’ll be able to confirm in more detail the types and locations of the improvements as the project develops. Make sure you sign up to our email database for the latest updates. 

The New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s Northland Package

The New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s Northland Package is an approximately $700million investment in a combination of both road and rail projects aimed to save lives, transport goods more efficiently and improve climate change outcomes. The package includes:

  • State Highway 1 safety improvements (between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway, delivered by Waka Kotahi) – this project replaces the Northern Section of the Whangārei to Wellsford safety improvements project and will now be delivered via the New Zealand Upgrade Programme
  • Rail link from the North Auckland rail line to Northport and other enabling rail works (to by delivered by KiwiRail)
  • Otiria to Whangārei rail line upgrade to take 18 tonne axle loads (to be delivered by KiwiRail)

Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail are delivering the $6.8 billion New Zealand Upgrade transport programme on behalf of the Government. The investment includes a range of key transport projects across the country that will save lives, get our regions and cities moving and boost productivity in the country’s growth areas.

New Zealand Upgrade Programme

The process

Below outlines the process for the SH1 Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway safety improvements project. We expect to have a clearer idea of the timings for the safety improvements in the coming months.

Project process - design, consult landowners, business case completed, consenting, construction procurement, contract awarded, construction start..

More detail on the process for the Northland rail project being delivered by KiwiRail(external link)

Safer speeds

In addition to these safety improvements, we are reviewing the current speed limits on state highways across Northland, including this corridor, to make sure they are safe and appropriate for the environment. Regardless of the cause of a crash, speed is most likely to determine whether anyone is killed, injured or walks away unharmed.

Earlier this year, we engaged with communities in Northland to help us get feedback and local knowledge on how the road is used and what the main concerns are. The next steps are to formally consult on any proposed speed limit changes. You can expect to hear more about this in the coming months.

More information about Speed Reviews in Northland

Whangārei to Wellsford

While safety improvements along the section of SH1 between Whangārei and Port Marsden Highway are being delivered as part of the NZUP Northland Package, they’re part of a wider programme of works aimed at significantly reducing the number of crashes and saving lives between Whangārei and Wellsford. Similar safety interventions are being investigated along this road corridor including barrier systems, wide centrelines and better signage.

Whangārei to Wellsford project

What happens to the Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway four-laning project?

The Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway four-laning project will not continue as part of the NZ Upgrade Programme.

Waka Kotahi recognises State Highway 1 as a strategic route and further changes in the future will likely be required to meet the demands of the region.

Any future changes will require funding to complete a detailed business case before proceeding to route protection (land designation and consents).

Route protection is an important part of project development as it provides certainty for affected landowners and wider communities.

Securing land designation and consents also ensures Waka Kotahi is ready to construct the route when it is required and when funding is available.

At this point we are unable to confirm a timeframe for securing funding via the National Land Transport Fund to progress the project through to route protection and it is unlikely this will occur within the next three years.

As we had not progressed to confirming a preferred corridor or route protection, we’re unable to confirm the extent of any possible property impacts.