Get ready for the new Peka Peka to Ōtaki expressway


The Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway, north of Wellington, will be fully open to traffic before Christmas and Waka Kotahi wants to make sure people are ready for the changes the new state highway will bring.

Regional Manager Infrastructure Delivery, Jetesh Bhula, says the road will make journeys in and out of the capital easier, safer and more reliable.

“We know people will be excited to try the new road in time for the holidays, and we’re thrilled to be able to open it before Christmas.”

Mr Bhula says people should plan ahead to make the most of the newest section of State Highway 1 after it opens.

“Peka Peka to Ōtaki will have a phased opening over several days, beginning on the evening of Wednesday, 21 December and being fully open on Friday, 23 December. This means that different parts of the road will open in sequence to allow for things like barrier tensioning and final line marking to be carried out. The whole expressway won’t open all at once, and drivers should be prepared for lower speed limits and traffic management over this initial period.”

“Traffic will flow more smoothly up to Ōtaki from Wellington/Kāpiti, and people’s travel times will be more reliable. While the new expressway will help to alleviate the holiday queues and delays, we’re used to seeing south of Ōtaki, and in the town itself, we expect that there will still be some congestion on SH1 further north towards Levin during the peak holiday traffic. We’re asking people to plan ahead and expect some delays, especially leading up to Christmas and over the busy holiday period when traffic volumes are highest.”

There will be temporarily reduced speed limits at the southern and northern ends of the expressway as it is integrated into the existing network. Drivers should take extra care in these areas. Contractors will return in the New Year to finish these sections.

Jetesh Bhula says while the road is built to the highest standards and is far safer than the road it replaces, it is likely to see extra traffic with people keen to check it out.

“Please enjoy the new road. Our contractors have worked long and hard to open it under some very challenging conditions, including bad weather and COVID-19 staff shortages, and delays in the delivery of materials. But be aware there may be a lot of other drivers wanting to experience it too. Expect heavy traffic, drive safely, and make sure you get to your destination safely.”

More information on how to drive the Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway is available on the Waka Kotahi website.

How to drive the Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway

There is also a short video explaining how the new expressway will affect local communities.

Destination Ōtaki(external link)

Key features of the new expressway

  • four-lanes stretching approximately 13 kilometres from Peka Peka to the north of Ōtaki
  • improved safety measures such as more lanes, better safety barriers and lighting, more resilient bridge structures and an off-road shared path (ie which separates pedestrians and cyclists from road traffic)
  • a 10-km long shared path for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders
  • 11 new structures – nine bridges (including the new 330m-long Ōtaki River Bridge) and two underpasses
  • 107 streetlights illuminating the main alignment
  • 50+ permanent culverts, in addition to roadside drainage swales, to protect the road from flood waters
  • six new wetlands alongside it which absorb rain (the Makahuri Wetland has also been enhanced through additional planting)
  • gateway sculptures at the southern and northern approaches to the Ōtaki township
  • bridge artwork and cultural features significant to local iwi and the Ōtaki community
  • heritage features, such as the relocated historic Mirek Smišek pottery kilns.

Key benefits of the new expressway

  • improved road safety due to the separation of local and highway traffic
  • the relief of severe traffic congestion points north of Peka Peka
  • more reliable journey times
  • more efficient movement of increasing freight volumes
  • increased economic productivity and growth in the area resulting from more efficient people and freight movements.

Cultural & environmental elements

A lot of effort has gone into incorporating cultural elements into the expressway with the help of local iwi Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki.

  • We have locally designed artwork etched into the sides of the road’s bridges for drivers to see as they travel underneath.
  • Two 6-metre-high gateway sculptures have been installed at both ends of Ōtaki township to welcome visitors into Ōtaki. Finishing touches are being made to a tall, steel Ōtaki River Bridge marker.
  • A time capsule is buried next to the sculpture at the southern end. Both sculptures will be officially unveiled next year.

In addition, the team has worked hard to preserve and improve the environment in the surrounding area. This includes:

  • bedding down thousands of plantings
  • creating new wetlands
  • redeveloping the existing Pare-o-Matangi reserve
  • relocating fish species where streams had to be diverted for construction.