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 end of 2024.
Construction of the Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatū Tararua Highway began in January 2021 and is now in its second earthworks season.
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).
On this flight you’ll see there’s been a lot of progress from the last flyover in September. Zone 4 manager David Scrimgeour provides commentary.
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.
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.
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
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.
Since the gorge road was closed Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has:
Before the gorge road closed, around 7,600 vehicles used the route every day. About 1,100 of these were trucks.Close
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.
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.Close
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 are ready to start construction in January 2021.
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.
The total project cost is estimated at $620 million. This includes the business case, purchasing property required for the project, pre-implementation and construction.
Construction on the project’s main works began in January 2021.
The highway is being built by an Alliance comprising Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Iwi, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction, WSP and Aurecon.
The construction timeframe of four years is realistic for a project of this scale and in this location.Close
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.orgClose
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.Close
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.Close
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.Close
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)Close
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.Close