Drivers urged to plan ahead for holiday journeys to Northland


Motorists planning a Christmas holiday trip to Northland are urged to plan ahead, drive with care and be aware of construction sites on state highways as they head north.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency work sites will close from 23 December to 4 January to leave the roads clear for holiday traffic, but there will still be temporary speed limits and road cones at work sites or where there has been recent road resurfacing.

“Traffic management, such as temporary speed limits, signs and cones, is used to alert road users to a change in the road or to works ahead, so look out for the signs and take care in the run up to Christmas and during the holiday period,” says Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships Steve Mutton.

“It’s particularly important that motorists remain patient and don’t try to overtake while our crews set up and take down traffic management signs and cones. When motorists disregard the traffic management, they put their safety, that of other road users and our road workers at risk.

“Speeding through work sites is a significant problem. Speeding vehicles can flick up loose metal and other objects which are a danger to road workers and other road users. Motorists also have less control at higher speeds. They may clip road cones and send them flying at our road workers or oncoming traffic or lose control completely.

“There will be some holiday congestion and delays, and we all need to factor that into our plans. Trying to ‘make up lost time’ by speeding and unsafe overtaking puts everyone using the road at risk. Speed is a factor in every crash. Even when it isn’t the direct cause, it can be the difference between someone walking away unharmed or being seriously injured or even killed. For everyone’s safety, please slow down.”

Improving safety on New Zealand roads is a top priority for Waka Kotahi. We are committed to Vision Zero, which aspires to a New Zealand where no-one is killed or seriously injured on our roads. 

With fewer people travelling overseas because of COVID-19 this year, the Christmas-New Year holiday period is expected to be a very busy time on Northland roads. Work sites to look out for include:

Map showing locations of roadworks in Northland

Ara Tūhono - Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway

There are changes in place to the road layout on the northern side of the Johnstones Hill tunnels. There are temporary roadside barriers and a temporary speed limit of 60 kmh through the area. 

The layout changes are the latest in a staged sequence of work to connect SH1 to the new Ara Tūhono - Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway under construction north of the tunnels. There will be changes to the alignment of SH1 and new lanes added before the motorway is due to open in mid - May 2022.

“The tunnels are a known congestion point at weekends and public holidays as the northbound motorway reduces from two lanes to one through the tunnel. We ask motorists to allow extra time for their journeys, avoid peak travel times if possible, drive to the conditions and don’t be distracted driving through the work area on the northern side of the tunnels,” says Steve Mutton.

SH1 Dome Valley

Safety improvements are being made in stages on SH1 through the Dome Valley, north of Warkworth. The improvements include widening the centre line and road side shoulders, adding right hand turn bays and installing flexible road safety barriers.

The stage closest to Warkworth, from Grimmer Bridge to Sheepworld, is close to completion, but elsewhere motorists can expect a 70kmh temporary speed limit, temporary safety barriers, narrower lanes and uneven road surfaces.

“Drivers are urged to be patient, keep to the speed limit and drive to the conditions.”

SH1 Loop Road, south of Whangarei

Traffic flow through the Loop Road roundabout site has improved significantly since the roundabout was sealed and opened to a single lane in October.

However, improvements to SH1 either side of the roundabout and to the Portland Road intersection further south are ongoing, so holiday motorists can expect there to be uneven road surfaces and temporary speed limits of 50kmh through the area. 

Roundabouts at Kawakawa (SH1/SH11), Puketona Junction (SH11/12) and Waipapa (SH10)

The three roundabouts in various stages of construction north of Whangarei have all been surfaced ahead of the Christmas season, so motorists can expect a good run through the work sites. While the roundabouts are open to traffic, there is other work to be completed in the New Year.

“Drivers are urged to be aware of the new road layouts and drive with care.”

In addition to its new roundabout, Kawakawa will also have traffic management at the pedestrian crossing by the town’s iconic Hundertwasser toilets to help traffic flow on some peak travel days.

At Puketona Junction, the temporary speed limit through the roundabout is 50kmh.

At Waipapa the temporary speed limit through the roundabout will be raised to 50kmh over the holiday period. No major day works are planned until after Waitangi Day, to better accommodate holiday traffic.

SH1 Mangamuka Gorge

SH1 through the Mangamuka Gorge will be open to motorcycles, private cars and other class 1 vehicles on 18 December, with the road past a big slip reduced to one lane under traffic lights control. 

New Zealand driver licence classes

In opening the road for three weeks, Waka Kotahi recognises how important it is for tourism in the Far North and the benefits it will bring to the local economy over the holiday period.

The gorge road will close again on 11 January so work to repair the slip and restore the road to two lanes can be completed.

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey. Keep up to date with: