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Programme introduction

Improvements are underway on State Highway 3 (SH3) from Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger to improve safety, resilience and route availability. This 58km section of SH3 is Taranaki’s main route north, it runs through rough terrain and is winding and narrow.

  • Estimated project cost

    $250 million+
  • Project type

    Safety improvements
  • Project status

    Design, Investigation

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Three projects

The State Highway 3 Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger Programme is made up of:

  • Mt Messenger Bypass
    A bypass of Mt Messenger is 5.2km long with additional work at the southern end creating about 6 km of improvements. It is located east of the existing highway (identified as Option C in the June 2017 public engagement). The route includes a bridge about 110m long and an estimated 230m long tunnel under the ridgeline south-east of Mt Messenger.
  • Awakino Tunnel Bypass
    A bypass of the Awakino Tunnel with two bridges across the Awakino River that reconnects to the existing highway 800 meters to the north.
  • SH3 Safety and Resilience improvements
    A package of improvements that includes road widening, rest stop and pull over areas, slow vehicle bays and passing lanes, side barriers, and slope stability improvements.


The Programme will improve safety, resilience and journey experience  along this key transport route.

The main objectives are to:

  • reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from crashes
  • reduce the number and duration of road closures
  • improve journey time predictability
  • improve drivers’ experience along the SH3.


Initial investigations on SH3 were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s by the Ministry of Works and Development for the National Roads Board. Since then a number of studies and investigations have been completed.

A business case confirmed there are ongoing safety, route availability and travel time issues, due to poor road layout along SH3. Poor route configuration has resulted in a number of deaths, serious injuries and road closures over recent years.

Cost and funding source

Project Cost Funding source
Awakino Tunnel Bypass $37.5 million Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme
Mt Messenger Bypass $200 million Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme and the National Land Transport Programme 2015–18
Safety and Resilience improvements $25–30 million National Land Transport Programme 2015–18


Construction for each project is estimated to occur during:

  • 2017 to 2019 – SH3 Safety and Resilience Improvements
  • 2019 to 2021 – Awakino Tunnel Bypass
  • 2019 to 2022 – Mt Messenger Bypass

What's happening

Detailed design for the new Mt Messenger route is progressing. Following an independent hearing on the project's resource consents and Notice of Requirement (NOR), the hearing commissioner granted the resource consents and recommended to the NZ Transport Agency that the Notice of Requirement (NOR) be confirmed. The Transport Agency has confirmed the NOR to alter the SH3 Designation at Mt Messenger, with two minor changes to the conditions recommended by the commissioner. The appeals period for the resource consent decision and NOR confirmation ends shortly.

A tender has been let for the two-bridge bypass of Awakino Tunnel. Enabling works will be carried out ahead of full construction starting in September 2019.

Some minor safety improvements are being carried out along the 58km stretch of highway which includes Awakino Tunnel and Mt Messenger. More complex safety and resilience improvements are planned including road widening, intersection improvements, passing opportunities, road realignments and slope stability.

Timeline for Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger project