Skip to content

Access keys for

  • h Home
  • m Menu
  • 0 Show list of access keys
  • 2 Skip to content
  • 3 Skip to top
kaikoura panoramic banner

Page last updated on 9 April 2018.

If you have any questions you’d like added to this document please email

Frequently asked questions

On this page you will find frequently asked questions on:

Alternatively you can download the frequently asked questions about SH1 and the alternate route [PDF, 1.9 MB]

State Highway 1

  •   What does SH1 look like and what’s it like to drive on?

    While SH1 is open, the rebuild work is not completed and some areas are still construction sites. There are some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go at remaining works sites along the route.

    SH1 to the north of Kaikōura looks quite different in many places; new sections of highway have been built, along with a new bridge at Irongate and the road has been moved closer to the sea at some locations.

    There are speed restrictions and no stopping zones along the worst affected areas to the north and south of Kaikōura. At this stage, we expect planned closures will also be needed in these areas to safely complete remaining work.

  •   Is the road open 24/7?

    Two sections of the road are currently closed overnight (7.30pm to 7.30am –) as a safety precaution for the public. They are between Clarence and Mangamaunu (North of Kaikoura) and between SH1/Leader Road intersection (north of Cheviot) and Peketa (south of Kaikoura).

    (Please note: following ex-Cyclone Gita there was a change in the overnight road closure point south of Kaikōura. It moved to the SH1/Leader Road intersection (north of Cheviot) from the original point at Goose Bay. With the road closed from the SH1/Leader Road intersection through to Peketa at night.)

    From the end of April 2018 the road will reopen 24/7. The exact date is still to be confirmed but until it is people can plan to use the road day and night from 1 May.

    Before the 1 May please consider road closure hours before starting your trip and leave enough time to be clear of these sections so you can continue your journey.

    Crews drive through both closure sites before 7am each day to ensure the road is safe for opening and another drive through is carried out each evening to ensure all traffic has cleared the road before nightfall. Road closure points are manned 24/7.

    It’s important to note that the rail corridor is closely monitored and is able to run trains at night because it is a controlled network. KiwiRail’s night-time freight services also allow rebuild work to continue where needed during the day.

  •   How long will it take me to drive SH1, compared to the alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass)?

    Drivers now have two good options for travel between Picton and Christchurch – you need to decide which route is best for your needs.

    Average current journey time is a minimum of 5.5 hours to drive from Picton to Christchurch on SH1 (one hour longer than pre-earthquake). However, you should allow plenty of extra time as delays are likely and can be caused by various reasons such as heavy traffic, a crash or bad weather.

    The ‘alternate route’ (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass) remains a good option for travel around the top of the South Island and is currently taking a minimum of 6.5 hours, although you should also allow plenty of time in case of delays on this route. There are ongoing improvements being made to this route as part of the Government’s $60 million package which continue over the summer season along with an ongoing summer maintenance programme.

    Journey time estimates are as accurate as they can be, based on the Transport Agency’s monitoring of the network and ongoing assessment of traffic patterns. Unexpected events such as a crash, high volumes of traffic, ongoing wet weather or seismic activity can cause delays so it’s important that travellers allow plenty of time in case something happens and check.

    You should regularly check the Transport Agency’s dedicated web page - (external link) or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) for the latest information before you travel and at key decision points on your route.

    If SH1 is closed for any reason (or you’re travelling on the alternate route) Kaikōura can still be accessed via the Inland Road (Route 70) from Waipara.


  •   Is there ongoing work along SH1 in 2018?

    Yes. Work continues to bring the road corridor back to its pre-earthquake condition.

    Crews will also be working to deliver the Government’s $231 million safety and amenities improvements package on the 60km section of State Highway 1 between Clarence and Oaro which will ultimately provide a higher level of service on the road for people living in the area, visitors to the region, and those travelling through.

  •   How reliable will SH1 be and should I consider using the alternate route to avoid missing my ferry/flight

    You have two choices for travel in the upper South Island and will need to decide which route is best for you. 

    The alternate route via Lewis Pass currently has consistent travel times of about 6.5 hours between Picton and Christchurch although you should allow extra time in case of delays. If you need to make a ferry, flight or other booking you may decide to take the alternate route as it has a more reliable journey time. 

    We are rebuilding SH1 to be safer through the worst affected sections. If there is a lot of rain or another significant event, we may have to close the road for short periods of time. It’s important to remember, the safety of those using the highway and working on the road will always be our top priority.

    Keep checking the website to make sure you have the most up to date information at least two hours before you travel and when you’re on your journey. Any planned closure information will be available on the website as soon as it is available later in the year which may help when planning journey dates and times. 

    Whichever route you choose to travel, please allow plenty of time in case of delays so you can get to your destination safely.

  •   What driving advice should I follow on SH1?

    Allow plenty of time in case of delays. Be prepared with food, water, and a fully charged cell phone.

    For everyone’s safety, strictly adhere to all road signage and speed restrictions. Follow any instructions by road crew.

    It’s important to ‘drive to the conditions’ and that means more than just the weather. It includes driving in an appropriate way for the road you’re on, the vehicle you’re in, the other traffic around you, and your level of experience.

    Be patient, cautious and courteous. The road conditions will be unfamiliar to many drivers so a little bit of patience will go a long way.

    Keep fresh by taking breaks, and support businesses in the local communities on the route.

  •   Can I cycle along SH1?

    Yes. Cyclists will be able to cycle along the road where they did pre-earthquake; however, they must obey all signs and crew instructions. Cyclists may need assistance or be escorted in some areas.

  •   Can I take the train?

    KiwiRail is working hard to get the track ready for passenger trains but they won’t be running until later in 2018. The Main North Line between Blenheim and Christchurch is now open to freight trains in a limited capacity at night so that the rebuild of the road and rail can continue during the day. The internationally acclaimed Coastal Pacific tourism experience will be up and running when the rail line is fully complete and all of the speed restrictions are lifted.

  •   What has changed along the railway line?

    As with the road, a lot of work has been done to reinstate the railway line. Generally the rail line remains in the same place relative to the road along the route. However in some areas through the narrow coastal sections road and rail have been moved closer together on a temporary basis until permanent re-alignments of road and rail are completed.

    Travellers will notice the work to stabilise the slopes above the rail line and the fences and other structures now in place to protect both the rail line and road from further slips They will also notice some of the rail tunnels are being extended with rock fall shelters.

    Everyone should stay off the rail line at all times, only cross at official level crossings, and expect trains at any time in either direction.


Alternate route (state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, via Lewis Pass)

  •   What is it like to drive the alternate Picton to Christchurch route?

    Travelling the picturesque alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass) between Picton and Christchurch takes on average 6.5 hours (in normal conditions) but allow extra time as delays are likely. Journey time on this route is quite consistent. The alternate route is challenging to drive in places – it is narrow and winding in many places, with single-lane bridges and there are speed restrictions. For everyone’s safety, strictly adhere to all road signage and speed restrictions.

    Drivers need to be patient, cautious and courteous – if needed, pull over and let traffic behind you pass when it is safe to do so to prevent drivers becoming frustrated and making poor overtaking decisions. Slow down, keep left and remember you need to share the road and take joint responsibility to ensure everyone gets to their destination safely this holiday season.

    Do not drive when you’re tired; tired drivers are slower to react, make poor judgement decisions and find it harder to concentrate. There are rest stops with fuel, food, coffee and toilets at Culverden, Springs Junction, Murchison and St Arnaud.

    Take your time: stop for regular breaks at towns along the route and make the journey part of your holiday.

    Be prepared for unexpected delays with food, water, and a fully charged cell phone.

  •   When SH1 reopened did all trucks/traffic go back to using that route from the alternate route?

    Opening SH1 gives people two good options for travel from Picton to Christchurch.

    Some traffic has go back to using SH1 but that traffic on the alternate route will stay at a higher volume than pre-earthquake for some time, especially with SH1 closed at night in two sections. This may be because businesses or holiday makers will prefer to use the alternate route until SH1 has been open for a while and has a reliable journey time.

  •   Following the SH1 reopening have the alternate route roads gone back to normal – no more worksites and delays?

    There are still works sites along the alternate route as the Transport Agency works to improve the safety and resilience of the route as part of the Government’s $60m package of improvements. The investment includes resealing, repairing and strengthening the roads; road widening through narrow or winding sections; pull-over areas and slow vehicle bays for trucks, and bailey bridges.

    It’s important to remember that all of this work on the alternate route is helping to create a safer and more resilient transport system.



  •   Is SH1 safe to drive?

    Safety is the number one priority.

    Crews working on the road are monitoring work sites and traffic and ensuring that any issues are dealt with quickly.

  •   If there is an earthquake while I am driving on SH1 what should I do?

    If there is an earthquake while you’re on SH1 and driving through one of the work sites you must follow road crew instructions at all times.

    The Official New Zealand Road Code advice about driving during an earthquake is as follows:

    In a severe earthquake driving can be very difficult because the road may be shaking or moving up and down beneath you.

    If you think that an earthquake is happening while you're driving, you should:

    • pull over and stop
    • stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops. Your vehicle will provide you with some protection against falling objects.

    After the earthquake:

    • if power lines have fallen onto your vehicle, stay inside it until help arrives
    • if you continue driving straight after the earthquake, be on the lookout for slips or other road damage and obstacles
    • turn on your radio and listen for news about possible road closures and other information.




  •   What times is the road be open for heavy vehicles?

    Two sections of SH1 are currently closed overnight to all vehicles as a safety precaution. North of Kaikōura the road is closed overnight between Clarence and Mangamaunu. South of Kaikōura the night closure is between the SH1/Leader Road intersection and Peketa. The daytime opening hours for these sections are 7.30am to 7.30pm until the end of April 2018 when the road will reopen 24/7.

    Consider road closure hours before undertaking your journey and leave enough time to be clear of them so you can continue on to your destination.

  •   What heavy vehicles can use SH1 now and after April when the road reopens 24/7?
    Type of heavy vehicleCan use SH1?Any relevant information or new restrictions?
    Standard heavy vehicles up to 46 tonnes GCM restricted to a height of 4.25m Yes  
    HPMV (H) vehicles and 50 MAX restricted to a height of 4.25m Yes – with relevant permit  
    Overweight vehicles or loads Yes – with relevant permit There may be additional speed restriction on overweight permits covered by a blanket addendum sent to permit holders.
    Over-dimension vehicles or loads

    Yes – if you fall into Category 1 and do not exceed 3.1m wide

    No – if you exceed the Category 1 width limits or any other Category– must continue to use alternate route via Springs Junction.

  •   Why is the route restricted to a height of 4.25m?

    In February 2017, the Vehicle Dimension and Mass Rule 2016 allowed for an increase in dimensions of trucks from 2.5m width x 4.25m height; to 2.55m width x 4.3m height, allowing an additional 50mm to both width and height.  The Transport Agency had planned to improve the current dimensions of the tunnels on SH1, however due to the earthquake this work was disrupted.

    Any trucks greater than 4.25m height that meet the new Vehicle Dimension and Mass rules will need to use the Inland Route to Kaikōura until further notice – this includes after SH1 opens 24/7. We will let the freight industry know when the tunnel dimensions have been increased but it is expected mid-2018.

    All drivers need to be cautious going through the tunnels and stay to the centre of the lane.

  •   Where can heavy vehicles stop on SH1?

    There are no truck stopping zones in the most earthquake damaged areas both north and south of Kaikōura as these are still construction zones. Even when the route reopens 24/7 there will be no truck stopping zones. Any drivers wanting to stop in the area should stop in Kaikōura.

    Operators and drivers must plan rest breaks to comply with the Worktime Rule provisions, the lack of rest and stopping areas cannot be used as a reason to not comply with these provisions.