He Tirohanga Whānui – project overview

A major slip in April 2017 left SH3 through the Manawatū Gorge impassable. A new road will be built over the Ruahine Range, to provide a safe, resilient, and efficient route between Woodville and Ashhurst. The new highway is due for completion by the middle of 2025.

View the latest flyover

March 2024

Check out the latest drone flyover of Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway! With major earthworks completed – and just some minor finishing touches to go – the main highway alignment is fully formed and ready for pavement construction to ramp up. You’ll also see huge progress has been made on Parahaki and Eco-Viaduct bridges, as well as the roundabouts at each end. Construction manager Mike Cassaidy provides the commentary for this flight.

The new route between Ashhurst and Woodville

The highway will be 11.5km with two lanes each way, and a drive time of about 13 minutes for general motorists and 18 minutes for freight (Woodville to Stoney Creek Road).

Te Ahu a Turanga at a glance

  • The highway is being built by an Alliance of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction, Aurecon, WSP, Rangitāne o Manawatū, Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-a-Rua, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua, Te Runanga o Raukawa (Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and Nga Kaitiaki ō Ngāti Kauwhata).
  • The project will cost about $620 million and is expected to provide work for up to 350 people at any one time.
  • The project is setting new benchmarks for health and safety and iwi partnership, and is one of the Government's largest current transport expenditure commitments.
  • The final route was chosen from 18 options.
  • Six bridges and structures will be built along the highway, with two of the bridges spanning over 300 metres long.
  • About 2 million trees and plants will be planted in the project area.
  • About 6m cubic metres of earthworks will be required.
  • Cyclists and walkers will be able to safely travel the route on a shared path.
  • The project scope is wider than infrastructure, with key result areas focused on broader outcomes such as creating local employment and upskilling communities.

Frequently asked questions

  • The closed Manawatū Gorge road

    Why can't you just reopen the Gorge road?

    State Highway 3 through the Manawatū Gorge has been closed since severe weather on 24 April 2017 caused slips that damaged the road. Continued instability at the Kerry’s Wall site has closed the gorge indefinitely.

    A large area above the Kerry’s Wall rock face is highly unstable and the entire hillside continues to move. The rate of movement suggests a slip as large, or larger than, the 2011 slip that closed the road for 14 months could come down at any time.

    In July 2017, another slip caused significant damage to the road in a new location towards the Ashhurst end of the gorge, and there have been further slips and cracks since.

    Which routes are available instead?

    State highway traffic is being rerouted across the Saddle Road north of the gorge, and the Pahiatua Track south of the gorge. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has been managing and maintaining these roads since 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 Pahiatua Track to enable it to deal with the increase in traffic.

    Will the gorge route ever reopen?

    Findings from a new geotechnical assessment reconfirmed our decision to close the road to vehicles, while opening the possibility of access to parts of the Gorge for walking, cycling or riding horses in the future. However, it would only be safe with mitigation works done. Waka Kotahi is now leading a project to investigate the future of the old road.

    Te Āpiti - Manawatū Gorge old road

    Where were the slips?

    The ‘Anzac’ slip is 6.4km from the Woodville end of the gorge. The ‘Kerry’s Wall’ slip is 4.5km from the Ashhurst turnoff on SH3. Since Anzac Day 2017, there have been three smaller slips at these locations.

    What has been done since the slips?

    Since the gorge road was closed Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has:

    • cleared 15,000 cubic metres of material from the road from the two original slips
    • cleared 4,100 cubic metres from three subsequent slips
    • used helicopters and monsoon buckets to sluice loosened material at risk of falling
    • inspected all affected bridges along the route
    • inserted 16 support beams into the rock face in two locations to support the installation of extra rock-fall netting
    • extensively drilled to determine the volume of water within the Kerry's Wall slip site
    • engaged specialist geotechnical and structural engineers to identify what's happening at the slip sites and to monitor safety factors.

    How many vehicles used the gorge road when it was open?

    Before the gorge road closed, around 7,600 vehicles used the route every day. About 1,100 of these were trucks.

  • Impact on Ashhurst and Woodville

    What is being done about increased traffic through Ashhurst?

    The increase in traffic over the Saddle Road, particularly heavy vehicles, has been tough for Ashhurst residents. We have undertaken a range of measures to mitigate the effects of the extra traffic, including resealing Salisbury Road to reduce noise. We continue to engage with Ashhurst residents to identify further measures to reduce the impact for this community.

    What about the impact on Woodville businesses?

    The closure of the gorge route has impacted Woodville businesses. In response to concerns from business owners, we have undertaken works to direct traffic to and from the Saddle Road through Woodville.

  • Design and construction

    Where will the new road go?

    The new road will run from near the western entry to the closed SH3 gorge route, across the Ruahine Ranges north of the gorge and reconnect to SH3 at Woodville.

    Will the new road require private property? The selected option affects a number of properties. We have worked closely with landowners and started construction in January 2021.

    Will the new highway be tolled?

    It is Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency policy to consider tolling for any new state highway. Any consideration of tolling will take into account the requirements of the Land Transport Management Act and include possible impacts to deliver outcomes under the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport, the original project intent, and other requirements in our tolling policy.

    What is the total cost of the project?

    The total project cost is estimated at $620 million. This includes the business case, purchasing property required for the project, pre-implementation and construction.

    When will construction start?

    Construction on the project’s main works began in January 2021.

    Who’s doing the work?

    The highway is being built by an Alliance comprising Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Iwi, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction, WSP and Aurecon.

    Why will it take four years to build the highway?

    The construction timeframe of four years is realistic for a project of this scale and in this location.

  • Jobs

    How many jobs will be created?

    The project is expected to employ close to 5,000 people over its duration, with up to 350 people working on the project at any one time.

    What kind of roles will be needed?

    We’ll need all kinds of roles, from administrators to labourers, site team supervision, machine operators, carpenters, apprentices, landscapers and more. While some roles will be required for the entire project term, others will only be needed at particular stages.

    Will there be training?

    We are working with community organisations in Tararua and Palmerston North, the Ministry of Social Development, and training providers, such as UCOL, to help local people get the skills they need to get work on the highway.   

    Where will jobs be advertised?

    Jobs are advertised online on Seek and Trade Me. Jobs and training opportunities are also listed on the Jobs page on this website. To find out more about jobs or training, email us at jobs@teahuaturanga.co.nz

  • Environment

    How will the new road affect the environment?

    Technical assessments were provided during the Notice of Requirement process, which relate to a range of environmental issues including freshwater ecology, landscape and natural character, visual effects and cultural effects. The project is committed to minimising effects on the landscape, and where possible leaving it in a better state than before work began.

  • Iwi

    Which iwi are involved in this project?

    Rangitāne o Manawatū, Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-a-Rua, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua, Te Runanga o Raukawa (Ngāti Raukawa and Nga Kaitiaki ō Ngāti Kauwhata) are represented on the Alliance Board, senior management level, and operationally throughout the project.

  • Community consultation

    What consultation have you undertaken?

    Consultation started in 2017 when the community and stakeholders provided extensive feedback on a range of options to replace the gorge road. Once a short-list of options was released, further stakeholder workshops and public information sessions were held.

    Some of the key themes from this feedback included gradient/steepness, impact on local facilities and schools, travel time and construction time. This feedback was taken into account when the preferred route was chosen.  

    A preferred route was selected in March 2018, followed by stakeholder workshops and public information sessions. Engagement with key stakeholders and the local community will continue for the duration of the project.

  • Active transport and recreation

    What about cyclists, runners and walkers?

    The project design includes a shared use path for walkers and cyclists along the new route. Walking and cycling facilities are also included in the design for the new bridge to cross the Manawatū River.

    A walking and cycling facility is being built at the existing Ashhurst bridge and a new walking and cycling connection from the Ashhurst Bridge to the carpark west of the Manawatū Gorge Scenic Reserve will also be built.

    Ongoing access to the popular walking tracks in the Manawatū Gorge Scenic Reserve on the south side of the Manawatū River, both at Ashhurst and Woodville, will be maintained. For the latest on the status of the walking tracks, see the Te Āpiti website.

    Te Āpiti website(external link)

  • Regional connectivity

    How does the new road fit with the regional transport network?

    The new road will connect into the local network and support ongoing improvements to roads around Palmerston North. Planning of these improvements is progressed by a Joint Working Group with local authority and industry representatives, the Palmerston North Integrated Transport Initiative. The group’s work is informed by KiwiRail, which is planning a new freight hub for the district.