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taranaki summary web banner

Taranaki’s strong export-based economy means the region’s major transport focus is on improving access. They need to be safe, reliable and resilient within and between regional connections to get goods to market. Heavy vehicles travel more than 75 million kilometres on Taranaki roads every year.

Taranaki is relatively isolated and relies heavily on State Highway 3 (SH3) for regional connections, and to the rest of the North Island. As the largest volume of traffic between regions uses the SH3 route to the south, this section has been progressively improved. SH3 north to Waikato has resilience and safety issues which are being addressed through this NLTP.

Fonterra’s plant at Hāwera is one of the largest dairy processing facilities in the country and generates a significant proportion of the region’s intra-regional freight movements.

During the next 10 to 20 years, log exports through Port Taranaki are expected to peak after significant increases in recent years. With no container shipping services out of Port Taranaki, goods are transported to and from other regional ports by road and rail.

Oil and gas continues to place the greatest demand on the region’s transport system during the exploration and development phase. However, most longer term petroleum products will be piped from the region.

Population growth pressures remain steady in New Plymouth, with the district classified as a high growth area under the National Policy Statement for Urban Development Capacity. Providing and promoting improved access through more affordable, safe and convenient travel choices is needed to support desirable urban spaces and liveable communities. Collaborative land use and transport planning for future growth will be investigated through the Keeping New Plymouth Moving and Growing business case to provide a balanced transport system.

 Map of Taranaki regionImproving safety

The Transport Agency is investing in safety improvements to combat the current high crash risk for users. This includes delivering safer corridor treatments such as median and side barriers, intersection improvements and speed management, as well as improving intersection safety.

Improving safety, reducing crashes and improving access is a focus between Waitara and Bell Block. The route is one of the region’s busiest and is a crucial link between New Plymouth and Hamilton. It carries a combination of commuter and long-haul freight traffic and provides access to housing and business growth, New Plymouth Airport and Port Taranaki. 


The SH3 northern route is Taranaki’s main link to Waikato and the upper North Island and is important for the region. While SH3 is generally fit for purpose, the 53km section of SH3 through Mt Messenger and the Awakino Gorge runs through rough terrain and is narrow and winding. A number of projects to primarily improve safety and reliability are underway, including the Mt Messenger and Awakino Tunnel bypasses.

The planned Mt Messenger Bypass will improve resilience and safety by relocating SH3 around the existing problematic steep, narrow and winding section. The new route will be nearly one kilometre shorter and will be an easier driving experience for customers. Design work for the bypass is progressing, with construction expected to start in 2019.

The construction of safety and resilience improvements has also been underway since 2017. This work includes:

  • the removal of sharp bends and roadside hazards
  • road widening
  • improving rest stop and pull over areas
  • improving slow vehicle bays and passing lanes
  • installing side barriers
  • slope stability improvements.

This work is expected to be completed in 2019.

More travel choices

Public transport services in the region give access to employment, education and social opportunities, with a particular focus of enabling access to those with limited transport choice. This includes connections between communities and towns throughout the region. Expanded public transport services will continue to improve access and transport choice. Walking and cycling improvements will support the uptake of active modes and provide increased transport choice so people are able to choose to walk or cycle to work, school, the shops, and for recreation.

Investment highlights

  • Investigations into SH3 Bell Block to Waitara route improvements to deliver significant safety benefits for the corridor as well as improved access to support proposed residential and business growth.
  • SH3 Mt Messenger Bypass will take SH3 around the existing problematic steep, narrow and winding section of SH3 at Mt Messenger where there’s a range of safety, resilience and reliability issues.