State Highway 3 through the Manawatū Gorge is no longer a safe road option and has been closed indefinitely. A safe resilient and efficient replacement SH3 corridor is required. The Transport Agency has been working with key stakeholders and the community to identify the preferred corridor for a new route connecting the Manawatū, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and Northern Wairarapa. The new road will run from near the western entry of the closed SH3 gorge route, cross the Ruahine Ranges north of the gorge, and reconnect to SH3 at Woodville.
It is anticipated Resource Management Act 1991 approvals could be obtained by mid to late 2019, followed by a construction start in early 2020. Construction could be complete by 2024.
State Highway 3 (SH3) through the Manawatū Gorge has been closed since slips caused major damage to the road on 24 April 2017 following severe weather. Continued instability at the Kerry’s Wall site has closed the Manawatū Gorge indefinitely.
Geotechnical engineers recently confirmed a large area above the Kerry’s Wall rock face is highly unstable, with the entire hillside is continuing to move. The rate of movement indicates a slip as large (or larger than) the 2011 slip which closed the road for 14 months could come down at any time.
During the weekend of 22 to 24 July 2017, another slip caused significant damage to the road in a new location towards the Ashhurst end of the gorge. There have been further slips and cracks in the gorge since then. Those same risks mean the road cannot be safely re-opened for motorists until the risks are resolved.
State highway traffic is being rerouted across the Saddle Road (north of the gorge) and the Pahīatua Track (south of the gorge). Given the increased traffic and associated wear and tear on these local roads, the Transport Agency has taken over their maintenance and management since the middle of 2017. Significant upgrades have been carried out on the Saddle Road to ensure it is suitable for the increased traffic volumes. Works have also been undertaken on the Pahīatua Track to enable it to deal with the increase in traffic.
The Transport Agency acknowledges the increase in traffic over the Saddle Road, particularly in terms of heavy vehicles, is causing disruption to Ashhurst residents. We have resealed Salisbury Road to reduce noise and speed cushions have been installed in a number of side streets.
The Transport Agency has received feedback that the closure of the SH3 gorge route has impacted Woodville businesses. In response, we are undertaking works to try and direct traffic to and from the Saddle Road via Woodville to try and return traffic flows to pre-gorge closure levels.
We are have been engaging with the local community throughout this project to help us find the best outcome for all. Consultation started in 2017, when the community and stakeholders provided extensive feedback on a long list of options to replace SH3 through the Manawatū Gorge. Once a short list of four options was released, the Agency held further stakeholder workshops and public information sessions.
Some of the key themes from this feedback included gradient/steepness, impact on local facilities and schools, travel time and construction time - which was taken into account when we shortlisted the preferred option. Many submissions touched on impacts any new road will have on the communities in Woodville and Ashhurst in particular.
A preferred route was selected in March 2018, followed by stakeholder workshops and public information sessions in July and August. As the project progressed, we went back to the community with fresh information in November 2018. Engagement with key stakeholders and the local community will continue for the duration of the project and beyond.
There were a number of workshops with mayors, local body chief executives, iwi and industry representatives as the shortlist of options was assessed.
The new road would be complementary to and support the development of the Regional Freight Ring Route, planning of which is being progressed by a Joint Working Group with local authority and industry representatives. Work which has been completed to date, indicates the proposed ring route (which includes a new bridge across the Manawatū River) could unlock new regional development opportunities. The community will be consulted on the Regional Freight Ring Route in due course.
No final decision has been made on the future of the current SH3 route through the gorge at this stage. We will continue to monitor the gorge for geological stability. While the current conditions are highly unstable and the road is not a viable long-term state highway option, we cannot categorically rule out the road ever re-opening in some form. Our priority now is moving forward and building a new long-term solution which will be safe, reliable and resilient.
In November 2018, the project team lodged a Notice of Requirement (NoR) to designate land for the proposed road corridor with the Manawatū District, Palmerston North City and Tararua District Councils. The NoR is a critical step to obtain statutory Resource Management Act (RMA) approvals to authorise the proposed new road across the Ruahine Ranges.
The NoR includes details on how effects of the project, be they cultural, social or ecological, are intended to be managed. The next step will be a public hearing where the NZ Transport Agency and all submitters are able to be heard – this is likely to happen in the first or second quarter of 2019.
Following the designation process, additional RMA consents will need to be obtained from Horizons Regional Council to authorise works such as earthworks, discharges to ground and water, as well as works in streams and rivers. These consents will be applied for once the detailed design of the project has been developed.
The selected option affects a number of properties. We are talking to those directly affected landowners to discuss how the project may affect their property, and provide them with more information on their rights under the Resource Management Act 1991(external link) and Public Works Act 1981(external link)
If a property is required for a public work, a Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) accredited suppplier on behalf of the Crown conducts negotiations for the purchase. The Crone makes acquisitions for the purpose of the NZ Transport Agency requirements.
The land purchase process is set out in the Public Works Act (PWA) and the following is the booklet provided to affected property owners:
Since two large slips closed the road on 24 April 2017, the evening before Anzac Day, the Transport Agency has:
There is a slip known as the ‘Anzac’ slip 6.4km from the Woodville end of the gorge. Around 10,000m3 material was removed from this site and the road has been repaired.
There is another slip at ‘Kerry’s Wall’ 4.5km from the Ashhurst turnoff on SH3. Around 5,000m3 was removed from this site.
Since Anzac Day, there have been three smaller slips at these same two locations.
Subsequently sometime on the weekend of 23–24 July 2017 there was another large slip about 500 metres from the locked gate at the Ashhurst end of the gorge. Approximately 10,000m3 of material, including large boulders, fell on the road. This slip has also caused significant damage to a bridge.
In late 2017 and early 2018, there have been further cracks and slips of varying sizes.
About 7,600 vehicles on average used the SH3 gorge route every day when it was open and about 1,100 of these vehicles were trucks.
It is Transport Agency policy to consider tolling for any new road. Any consideration of tolling will take into account the requirements of the Land Transport Management Act and Crown Entities Act, and include a wide range of factors, as set out in our tolling policy.
In the case of the Te Ahu a Turanga project, this new road is connecting a ‘broken’ link in the State Highway network, rather than providing an alternative route, so this will be taken into account in the consideration of tolling.
We are at the Notice of Requirement (NoR) stage in which we seek to secure a corridor within which the proposed road, structures, planting and mitigation can be constructed. While the NoR includes an indicative design of the road, this is only provided to illustrate what environmental effects might occur and how they could be managed. The NZ Transport Agency is not seeking to consent the design of the project at this time, as this will be developed during the next stages of the project’s development.
The NoR includes design philosophies and a design framework which will be used to develop the future design. It does not preclude walking and cycling matters being considered in the design process.
The provision of safe and appropriate walking and cycling facilities along the new route will be considered as part of the future design process. Any design changes/development would be done in conjunction with project partners and stakeholders. The Transport Agency is also investigating how walking and cycling facilities can be incorporated on State Highway 3 Ashhurst Bridge.