New classifications for better use of state highway network


The NZ Transport Agency has published a new classification system aimed at encouraging safer and more efficient use of New Zealand's 11,000 kilometre state highway network.

The system categorises state highways across the country based on each road's main purpose and the function it serves, such as moving freight to and from a port, or as a route for people travelling between main centres.

The system puts all New Zealand state highways into one of four categories: national strategic (with a high volume subset), regional strategic, regional connector or regional distributor. Highways have been sorted into one of the four categories according to criteria such as the size of population centres they serve, the volume of traffic they carry, freight volumes and tourist numbers.

NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said the purpose of highway classification was to get a better understanding of each road’s function in order to maximise safety and efficiency on the state highway network as a whole.

“The more we know about how our roads are used, the more effective we'll be at getting the best out of them.  A highway that moves large numbers of people across the country and large volumes of freight to ports serves a very different function than a highway which mainly helps people to travel between towns within a region. For example, the 714 kilometres of road classified as ‘National Strategic (high volume)’ comprise just 6.5% of the total state highway network, but they account for 36% of all highway vehicle kilometres travelled, and they carry about 28% of heavy vehicle travel. 

“The more we understand about the core functions of each highway, the better we can plan our management, our maintenance and our improvements to make sure New Zealanders get the best return on their investment in the state highway network,” Mr Dangerfield said.

Highway classification systems are common overseas, and the NZTA has drawn on international experience in developing its approach to classification. The NZTA developed the classifications with input from a range of organisations, including the Ministry of Transport, local authorities and customer groups earlier this year. The classifications will be reviewed and updated every three years.

The classification system is now being used to help develop the NZTA’s State Highway Network Strategy, which will provide the direction for managing New Zealand’s state highway network over the next 30 years. The State Highway Strategy will include proposed levels of service for each category of highway, which will in turn inform the design, maintenance and operations needed to provide that level of service.

Further information on the State highway classification system: