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Project introduction

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is investigating long-term improvements in the safety of SH1 between Cambridge (where the Waikato Expressway ends) and Piarere (at the SH1 and SH29 intersection).

  • Estimated project cost

    To be confirmed
  • Project type

    Road improvements, Study and investigation

Project updates

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Purpose of the project

To investigate long-term improvements in the safety of SH1 between Cambridge and Piarere.


After the 2020 announcement of the NZ Upgrade Programme which included funding for a new roundabout to be constructed in the vicinity of the existing SH1/29 T intersection at Piarere, work was undertaken to complete the detailed business case looking at the long-term strategic route between Cambridge and Piarere. This had been put on hold for re-evaluation in 2018.

NZ Upgrade Programme's SH1/SH29 intersection project

The earlier work was reviewed, updated, completed and presented to the Board.

The Waka Kotahi Board endorsed the business case in June 2021. Waka Kotahi is now progressing to protect the preferred route.

Preferred road alignment

The State Highway 1 (SH1) Cambridge to Piarere Long Term Improvements Project is a 16km long four-lane expressway extending from the southern end of the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway to the intersection of SH1 and SH29 at Piarere.

The indicative alignment for the project broadly follows the existing SH1 from the end of the Waikato Expressway to Karapiro Road. Near Karapiro Road the alignment deviates onto a new offline corridor that sits approximately 1km north of the existing SH1 and ends at the SH1/SH29 intersection.

Map showing proposed route from Cambridge to Piarere

View larger map [PDF, 1.2 MB]

The key components currently being proposed are:

  • The road will have 4 lanes for its entire length of approximately 16 kms and be expressway standard design with central median and wide shoulders (similar to the Cambridge Section of the Waikato Expressway).
  • There will be no direct access for properties onto SH1. All property access will be from existing roads or new local roads adjacent to the alignment where required.
  • Local roads will be located on both sides of main alignment of the Project, between the existing end of the Cambridge Section of the Waikato Expressway and the proposed Karāpiro interchange.
  • Four bridges are proposed on the main alignment, one at the proposed interchange, two over ecologically sensitive environments and one over a stream.
  • Central and roadside barriers will be constructed along the full length.
  • A full diamond-shaped, grade-separated interchange will be located south-east of the existing SH1 and Karāpiro Road intersection. The local roads will provide better connections for local communities and reduce impacts of roading infrastructure near the Waikato River.
  • A bridge will go over an extension of Tunakawa Road for private property access.

The next stages of the project

The next step, which is where the project is now, is to secure route protection. This involves processes under the Resource Management Act to allow Waka Kotahi to require designations and to obtain regional resource consents to ensure we are ready to proceed if and when funding is made available.

Once route protection is secured, funding must be confirmed (see points below). Then the next stages include detailed design, tendering and construction.

Route protection: completing concept design

Route protection of the preferred route entails Waka Kotahi completing a concept design. To create the concept design, there is a lot of detailed work underway in areas such as identifying and addressing environmental effects including ecological, landscaping, urban design, groundwater, archaeology, air quality, vibration and noise. This will result in a number of design plans which will form part of the Notices of Requirements (NOR) and consent applications.

Based on those concept designs, Waka Kotahi will seek consents and notify its requirements for designations under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

In May 2022, the preferred road alignment was shared with affected landowners.

Route protection: public consultation prior to lodgement

The public will have the opportunity to see the design plans and to discuss the project with members of the team before the required documentation is submitted to the councils. A public information session in Cambridge will be held soon, anticipated to be 17 November 2022.

Route protection: public participation in the RMA process

Waka Kotahi will then proceed to finalise the required documentation for protecting this route for the future.

Notices of Requirement (NoRs) will be lodged with Waipā District Council and Matamata-Piako District Council. At the same time, Waka Kotahi will lodge resource consent applications with the Waikato Regional Council.

When we lodge these, we will request that they are publicly notified. This means that any member of the public can make a submission to the councils with respect to the notice of requirement or the consent applications and participate in the process.

We will update everyone on our email database and through a website update when we have a definite date as to when lodgement will be.

Funding not yet allocated for further project stages

No funding has yet been allocated for construction of the 16km expressway between Cambridge and Piarere and is not expected until later in the decade. However, route protection is a very important step to ensure we are ready to proceed if and when funding is made available.

The total cost of the project is currently estimated to be approximately $635m. There is no funding available in the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) to prioritise this project for detailed design and construction before the 2027–2030 period.

Cambridge to Piarere - detailed business case [PDF, 14 MB]

Walking and cycling

We are also now developing the detail of the walking and cycling component of the Detailed Business Case (DBC) for Cambridge to Piarere. This addition will better align the project with government priorities.

Recently the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan was released. It calls for a 41% reduction in emissions from the transport sector by 2035 (from 2019 levels). Waka Kotahi’s role is to ensure road and transport corridors are fit for the future by including a greater range of transport choices.

To be funded, any transport projects must demonstrate how they will contribute to or be consistent with emissions-reduction objectives. Other transport choices such as walking and cycling need to be included in any transport planning such as the work we are doing on the future of State Highway 1 between Cambridge and Piarere.

One of the overall objectives is to allow for connection to other shared pathways in the area including the Te Awa Trail, the Hauraki Rail Trail (north of the new SH1 alignment) and the Waikato River Trail (at Horahora Road).

Such facilities help make our towns and cities more accessible, provide tourism opportunities, reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, support people to be active and contribute to healthy communities.

As with any major transport projects, before funding can be sought for shared pathways for example, there needs to be investigations into how these connect to other pathways and transport hubs to provide wider transport networks, the safety of those pathways, how attractive they are to potential users, feasibility of constructing, maintaining and operating the pathways and any cultural and environmental effects.

Working closely with our partners and using some of the criteria mentioned above, we have identified four possible routes to consider for a new shared path between Cambridge and Piarere. One is alongside the proposed Cambridge to Piarere expressway and the others are closer to Lake Karāpiro. We now want to discuss the possibilities with landowners who may be affected and also the local community.

We’ll let you know shortly how you can take part in this discussion, including an Information Day and on-line options.  We want you to tell us what is important to you for shared pathways as part of our longer-term plans for improvements of our transport options.

Safety improvements

Safety improvements already completed on this section include:

  • The first stage of median barrier installation, from Fergusson Gully Road 2.5km south towards Piarere (completed in December 2020).
  • 1.2km of median barrier installed north of Maungatautari Road (May 2022).
  • The Give Way sign at Maungatautari Road has changed to a Stop sign.
  • Additional right turn bays have been added. 
  • The short northbound passing lane terminating very close to Kentucky Road and Moana Roa Road has been taken out due to high-risk traffic merges at the end of this lane where there are many busy entrances.
  • Trimming vegetation and moving fences to improve visibility at Ferguson Gully Road.
  • New right-turn bay at Keeley Reserve.
  • Moving the Karapiro Road bus stop.
  • Moving the Karapiro School bus stop to a safer location.
  • Installing intersection speed zones (electronic warning signs) at the SH1/SH29 intersection.

Waka Kotahi will continue to add safety improvements along the current SH1.

Through the Road to Zero Speed and Infrastructure Programme further median barriers will be installed. . There will also be an  additional 7.9km of safety improvements from the current end of the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway to Fergusson Gully Road. This includes improving intersections such as SH1 / Karapiro Road.

Having median barriers and associated turnaround facilities on the majority of the length of SH1 between the Cambridge end of the Waikato Expressway and the SH1/29 intersection will result in a significant improvement in safety.

More information on the safety improvements