SH51 Napier to Hastings safety improvements

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Project introduction

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi is improving safety on 5km of State Highway 51 between Napier and Hastings. Safety treatments include a new roundabout, flexible median barrier, side barrier and wider centrelines.

  • Estimated project dates

    May 2023–Jun 2024
  • Estimated project cost

    $20 million
  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status


About the project

  • Stages for safety improvements
    Stage Indicative date Safety improvements will include:


    Early May 2023 – February 2024

    Safety improvements on the section of SH51 south of Awatoto Road including:

    • Road shoulder widening between Awatoto Road and Ngaruroro Bridge.
    • Flexible median barrier and side barrier.
    • Changing the SH51/Waitangi Road. intersection to one-way ‘in only’ to improve safety at the rail level crossing. (Note: Some drivers have still tried to exit Waitangi Road onto SH51, but this is no longer an option. We’ll continue to monitor this change as people adapt to the new road layout.)
    • ‘Left in left out’ treatments for existing beach accesses and businesses (road users will be able to use Waitangi Road to turn around if they need to).


    Started December 2023

    Safety improvements on SH51 between Awatoto Road and Ellison Street including:

      • Flexible median barrier and side barrier.
      • Shoulder widening.
      • Earthworks for the offline roundabout.
      • New road lines and signs.

    During this work, the carpark on the beach domain, about one km north of the Awatoto Road intersection, will be in use by contractors for vehicle and equipment storage.

    While this work takes place, contractors will also be doing routine maintenance work between Awatoto Road and Ellison Street in early January 2024, including digging out and rebuilding the road. We are doing this at the same time as our safety improvement work so we can be as efficient as possible.


    Started December 2023

      • Construction of the new roundabout at the intersection at SH51 and Awatoto Road.
      • Realignment of the road further towards the beach to meet the new roundabout, to improve safety at the rail level crossing on Awatoto Road.
      • A shared use pathway will be constructed as part of this work, connecting Awatoto Road to the beach domain (see roundabout graphic).
      • Once the road has been realigned to meet the new roundabout, the existing road will be converted into reserve space, with native species to be planted between the highway and the existing rail-line.
      • SH51 Napier roundabout construction [PDF, 138 KB]

Project videos

Since 2019, there have been 15 deaths and serious injuries on State Highway 51 between Napier and Hastings. Waka Kotahi is now making this corridor safer for everyone by implementing a new roundabout, flexible median barrier, side barrier, wider centrelines and a crossing facility from Te Awa Ave to the shared user path on the waterfront. These safety improvements will help reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on Aotearoa New Zealand's roads, so everyone can get to where they are going safely.

SH51 Napier roundabout flyover - February 2024

Check our progress on the new roundabout at the intersection of State Highway 51 and Awatoto Road—it'll be finished and ready for you to use from mid-March, weather permitting! There'll still be traffic management in place once the roundabout is complete—roadworkers will be onsite completing the final phases of work, which we expect to finish by mid-2024.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why do we need to make changes?

    This section of SH51 has been identified as a high-risk corridor. To reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on New Zealand roads, Waka Kotahi aim to deliver proven and effective safety interventions to make our roads safer for all users.

  • How many deaths and injuries have occurred on this stretch of road?

    The section of State Highway 51 between Napier and Hastings has been identified as a high-risk corridor. Between 2010 – 2019, there have been five people killed and 28 people were seriously injured on the SH51 corridor between Marine Parade and Waipatu. From 2020 – February 2021 a further two people have been killed. All fatal crashes have occurred on the Marine Parade to Awatoto section of SH51. 

  • Why are you installing flexible median barriers?

    Every day people make mistakes on the road. Road safety barriers give you a second chance, so a simple mistake doesn’t cost a life.

    Flexible median barriers are installed down the middle of a road to prevent head-on crashes. They stop your vehicle before you hit something harder – like a tree, power pole or an oncoming vehicle.

    75 percent of people who die or are seriously injured on our rural roads have had a head-on collision or have run off the side of the road. They’re a cost-effective infrastructure treatment that can reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in crashes by up to 65 percent.

    We know median barriers down the centreline are very effective, because of the number of times they get hit. Every time this happens, a potentially fatal or serious crash has been prevented.

    Flexible median barriers are the safest barrier if someone hits them and can prevent head-on crashes which is how most people are killed or seriously injured on New Zealand roads.

    The video below provides information about how flexible median barriers work, how they are maintained, and how access for over dimension vehicles and maintenance activities can be managed.


  • Does having a median barrier mean I have to travel further?

    Where there’s a median barrier, you may need to drive or ride a little further to turn right. We try to leave gaps in the barriers and provide places to turn where we can, and where it’s safe.

    In most areas where we install road safety barriers, we widen the road or leave gaps in the barriers where it’s safe to do so. We also do this at intersections and driveways. This means there are places to pull over if there is a breakdown or emergency.

    To achieve the greatest safety benefit for the flexible median safety barriers, we need to have as few gaps as possible. This means people accessing the highway from a private access or side road may only be able to turn left unless a safe turnaround area has been provided.

  • How will emergency services get to people in an accident if barriers are installed?

    There will be no changes to emergency procedures when median barriers are installed. If there is an accident blocking a lane, and cars are trapped in the lane between the flexible road safety barriers and the accident, the barrier can be released and dropped, in 60m sections, creating a bypass. Wide accesses along the route will allow trucks to move further off the lane and will provide extra space for emergency services to pass. Emergency vehicles can also use the opposite side of the carriageway to pass queued vehicles and access the incident.

  • What happens if a motorcyclist hits the barriers?

    Motorcyclists don’t have the same protection in a crash as the occupants of vehicles, and special consideration needs to be given for how to keep them safe. Roadside and median flexible safety barriers are highly effective in preventing deaths and injuries for all road users including motorcyclists. The Safe System approach to road safety holds that while mistakes are inevitable, deaths and serious injuries are not. Waka Kotahi is investing in improved roads and roadsides that are increasingly safer for motorcyclists when they or other road users make mistakes.

    Motorcyclists have been opposed to flexible road safety barriers because they think the steel ropes will act like a ‘cheese cutter’ when hit by a rider. However, studies have shown this assumption is not correct. Motorcyclists are more likely to survive an impact with a flexible road safety barrier than an impact with trees, poles or oncoming vehicles which the barrier will prevent them striking in a crash.

  • Why are you constructing a roundabout?

    Roundabouts are proven to be the safest form of intersection control. They will provide safe turnaround areas as part of flexible median barrier installation this stretch of SH2.

    Roundabouts reduce approach speeds and allow traffic from side roads to access the highway. They significantly reduce the head-on and side impact crashes, and the low impact angles reduce injury severity when mistakes are made, as per the safe systems approach.

    The proposed design of the Awatoto roundabout will also minimise the short stacking issue and the associated risk for drivers and pedestrians at the KiwiRail level crossing.

    Safe System solutions

  • Will the roundabout size allow for large trucks?

    Yes, roundabouts will be large enough for high productivity motor vehicle (HPMV) 25m truck-trailer units. Other factors impacting on the size of the roundabout, include expected turning traffic, and approach speeds, terrain, and available sight distances. Cost and disruption to adjoining property owners are also considered with each of the roundabout designs. Detailed designs will be shared as we progress through each site.

  • How much will the work cost?

    The whole project will cost approximately $20m. $5m is allocated for the first phase of the project (flexible median barrier between Awatoto Road and Waitangi Road).

  • Why are you continuing this safety project during the flood recovery?

    The cyclone recovery is our top priority, however, safety and resilience of unaffected sections of the network need to remain front of mind. We recognise the ongoing need to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads. We need to make sure that SH51 which is a notoriously dangerous road is getting the safety upgrades it requires.

    Planning for the first stage of this project has been completed prior to the cyclone and funding has been secured, so we are ready to start. We can do works in parallel with recovery works and therefore minimise disruptions for road users and the community. 

  • Will some of the Norfolk pine trees need to be removed during construction?

    Most of the Norfolk Pines in the Beach Domain are under a protection order enforced by Napier City Council. Waka Kotahi is working with a qualified arborist to ensure that construction won’t have a negative impact on the health of the trees. This involves creating a physical tree protection zone whereby staff and machinery are not permitted to enter. The arborist will conduct regular site inspections during construction to ensure the tree protection order is being adhered to.

    The larger Norfolk Pines will remain untouched. There are a few juvenile Norfolk Pines near the location of the permanent roundabout that will need to be removed. While we had hoped to relocate these, the arborist has advised that this would not be successful due to the impact on their root system when lifted. To mitigate the loss, Waka Kotahi with the support of the arborist will source replacement Norfolk pines to be planted alongside the new road alignment.

    Conservation of the trees remains a priority, therefore, the Landscape design will continue to be modified in places to accommodate minor changes as a result with conversations with local council and hapū.