Project introduction

The 12.3km Ngāruawāhia section of the Waikato Expressway opened in December 2013. The four-lane road runs from Taupiri in the north, crossing flat farmland and the Waikato River before connecting with the completed Te Rapa section.

  • Estimated project cost

    $166 million - construction only
  • Project status



When complete the Waikato Expressway will be the key strategic transport corridor for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of Waikato and Bay of Plenty. The expressway will improve economic growth and productivity through more efficient movement of people and freight.


  • reducing travel times between Auckland and Tirau by 35 minutes
  • reducing significantly the number of fatal and serious injury crashes
  • reduced fuel costs
  • reducing traffic congestion within smaller communities like Huntly, Ngāruawāhia and Cambridge
  • increasing the highway's capacity and passing opportunities.

Key features

The Waikato Expressway will be 102km in length running from the Bombay Hills to south of Cambridge. It will provide for two lanes of traffic in each direction divided by a central median, with local roads and interchanges generally serviced by bridges and underpasses.

The Ngāruawāhia section:

  • connects the Huntly section of the expressway (due to be completed in 2019) to the completed Te Rapa section

  • until the Huntly section is completed, part of the SH1B (Gordonton Road) has been  upgraded to connect the existing SH1 with the Ngāruawāhia section.

Project stages

In 2010 the Taupiri Link project was split out of the Ngaruawahia section to address safety concerns at the intersection of SH1 and SH1B.

Construction started on the Taupiri Link in November 2010 with the project opening in November 2011.The Taupiri Link provides the northern connection to the Ngaruawahia section of the expressway, until the Huntly section is built.

  • The first stage: project investigation

    The first stage, project investigation, was undertaken by Opus International Consultants for the NZ Transport Agency (then known as Transit New Zealand) between 1995 and 1999. This stage led to the Ngāruawāhia section being designated in the Waikato District Plan in 2002. That process was fully notified with submissions called for and a hearing by independent commissioners.

  • The second stage: secondary investigation and specimen design

    The second stage, secondary investigation and specimen design, was undertaken by Bloxam Burnett and Olliver, and included:

    • Reviewing of the preliminary design of the alignment that formed the basis of the designation, including reassessment against latest Transport Agency objectives and against latest safety and environmental standards, as well as a review of intersection forms.

    • Undertaking more detailed geotechnical, engineering and environmental investigations to confirm the alignment, the amount of land required for it and what works will be required to meet conditions imposed on the designation.

    • Securing resource consents required for construction earthworks, stream crossings, stormwater drainage etc.

    • Developing the design and project documentation to the point where a construction contract can be tendered.

  • The third stage: detailed design and construction

    The third stage, detailed design and construction, followed the announcement to award the contract to Fletcher Construction in March 2011. The section was opened to traffic in late 2013. A finer grade of seal will be placed on the road later in 2014.

  • Route

    The main four-lane expressway section starts at Gordonton Road, where a full diamond interchange was constructed as part of the Huntly section. The Expressway heads south across flat farmland, crossing Lake Road where it meets the future Hamilton section, before curving to the right and crossing River Road and the Waikato River before connecting to the Te Rapa section near Horotiu.


    The Expressway connects to the local road network at Gordonton Road to the north, where it will connect to the Huntly section, and it connects to the Te Rapa section in the south.

  • Comment and input

    In parallel with the investigations, the NZ Transport Agency and its consultant Bloxam Burnett and Olliver, consulted landowners, tangata whenua, stakeholders and other affected parties to ensure that any issues were considered.  The consultation process included a combination of site visits, individual meetings and information days.


Environmental management

Reflecting the NZ Transport Agency's desire to protect communities and important sites, there was close liaison with local landowners and iwi groups. The Transport Agency is committed to improving the contribution that state highways make to the environment and social wellbeing of New Zealand by:

  • protecting and enhancing the environment

  • using and managing resources efficiently

  • considering environmental issues early

  • contributing to sustainable outcomes by working with others

  • continually improving environmental performance.

  • Noise control

    Noise levels comply with the designation conditions. Measures used include:

    • Monitoring of noise during construction and advance notification of any unavoidably noisy construction activity.

    • Haul routes for moving materials will be away from main roads and sensitive residential areas wherever practicable.

    • Buffer zones and noise barriers to protect local residents, businesses and sensitive areas from road noise.

  • Visual impact, landscaping and environmental measures
    • Careful consideration was given to wildlife and habitats, in order to minimise impact and disruption.

    • Landscaping and planting have been used to mitigate the visual impacts of the new road.

    • Culverts, swale drains and wetland areas were used to manage natural water flows and drainage. Extensive planting was done around  Lake Areare in conjunction with stakeholders.

  • Significant sites: cultural, historic and environmental

    To protect this history the following measures were used:

    • Protocols and agreements with local tangata whenua.

    • Engagement of cultural heritage monitors.

    • Liaison with local historical groups.

    • On site archaeological controls to ensure that approved processes were followed.