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Project Introduction

This project will improve safety for road users on the stretch of State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Wellsford. This project is part of the Safe Network Programme.

  • Estimated project cost

    $30 million
  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status


Project updates

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Making the road safer

This increasingly busy stretch of State Highway 1 (SH1) has been identified as a road that can be made safer. We want to make it more forgiving of human error to prevent people from dying or being seriously injured.

SH1 between Whangārei and Wellsford is considered a strategic state highway, connecting the Auckland and Northland regions. An average of up to 17,000 vehicles use the road every day and that includes up to 2550 heavy vehicles.

Over the next 30 years Northland is expected to grow, with development in forestry and continued growth in the tourism industry. With this growth, there is increased pressure in terms of safety on this road.

SH1 between Whangārei and Wellsford is classified as a high-risk rural road. 41 people have lost their lives and 122 have been seriously injured in the past 10 years (2008 - 2017) on this 80km stretch.

Most serious crashes between Whangārei to Wellsford involved drivers losing control of their vehicle or hitting another vehicle head-on as well as crashes at intersections.  We’re focussed on making this stretch of road safer.

What we are doing

The project has been split into three sections because it is so long.  

  • Northern section – SH1 Whangārei to SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway
  • Central section – SH1/SH15 Port Marsden Highway to the northern base of the Brynderwyn Hills
  • Southern section – SH1/SH12 Brynderwyn Hills to SH1 Wellsford, including safety improvements to the townships of Te Hana and Kaiwaka.

Our initial focus is on the northern section because of the higher number of deaths and serious injuries on this busier stretch of SH1. 

 The improvements we’re looking at include: 

  • Side and median flexible safety barriers to stop your vehicle before you hit something harder like a tree, power pole or, in the case of median barriers, an oncoming vehicle. 
  • Wide centrelines to steer drivers away from each other. 
  • Better signs and road markings to warn drivers of intersections, stop signs or sharp curves further down the road. 
  • Safer speeds to allow drivers time to react to a mistake and recover.

Ahead of these improvements, on SH1 between Toetoe Road and Oakleigh Wharf Road, 10km of wide centreline with Safe Hit posts were installed in June 2018 to deter deliberate overtaking manoeuvres, which are the leading cause of head-on crashes. Since these improvements were made, there have been no head-on crashes in this section of SH1.

 The long-term Whangārei to Auckland programme can be found here.

What's happening and when

Early 2019 
Work will start on safety improvements to Loop Road North and Portland Road intersections, including a new roundabout at Loop Road North.

Mid 2019
We will finalise designs and seek approvals for the northern section - Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway.

Early 2020
Communications with property owners for the northern section – we will be getting in touch with residents and businesses along SH1 to outline the planned safety improvements.

Mid 2020
Subject to funding and approvals, construction of the Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway section will get underway in mid-2020. The section of SH1 between Toetoe Road and Portland Road will be delivered as part of the SH1 Loop Road Safety Improvements project, which is currently under construction.

Community engagement

Thank you to everyone who attended the community open days and provided feedback. A summary of the feedback can be found here [PDF, 992 KB].