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Project introduction

SH1 from Picton to Christchurch is a national strategic route and has a critical freight task connecting the North and South Islands. We are investigating the route as part of work included in the 2015-18 National Land Transport Programme.

Kaikoura earthquake response

Work is well underway to restore full access on State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch after the damage caused by the Kaikōura earthquake on 14 November 2016. The scale and the complexity of the slips on State Highway 1 are unprecedented in New Zealand. If you are interested in updates about the restoration of the road and rail networks, please visit our Kaikōura earthquake response page.

SH1 Picton to Christchurch Programme Business Case

The Programme Business Case (PBC) was been developed with stakeholders to identify the long term approach for improvements to SH1 between Picton and Christchurch. 

The problems within the "strategic case" were confirmed with evidence. The corridor level of service along SH1 between Picton and Christchurch was found to be inconsistent with the One Network Road Classification levels of service leading to the following:

  • A safety record incongruous with a nationally strategic state highway: generally a KiwiRap rating less than 3.5 and less than 3 in challenging, lower volumes sections; with numerous out of context curves, narrow shoulders and roadside hazards
  • Poor, and decreasing levels of travel time reliability to accommodate traffic growth and the changing travel patterns in and around Christchurch
  • Relatively high levels of road closures with extensive durations
  • Conflicts between access and amenity for customers through urban areas due to conflicting through and local traffic

The PBC identified a strategic response for SH1 that is to provide a more consistent, no surprises, self explaining journey experience with outcomes targeted to:

  • improving safety with reduced deaths and serious injuries by providing for better than 3.5 KiwiRap rating in sections closer to Christchurch and better than 3 KiwiRap rating in the challenging, lower volumes sections
  • implementing safe and appropriate speed limits
  • addressing the worst out of context curves, shoulder widening, hazard removal and barriers
  • maintaining travel time reliability to accommodate traffic growth and the changing mix of traffic with improved capacity in Christchurch
  • creating passing opportunities along the corridor and improved traveller information to manage demand reduced road closures (number and duration) through better incident management
  • improved rock/landslide protection, improved flooding and coastal protection
  • improved access and amenity through urban areas to manage conflicts, at key destinations and for journeys to support tourism growth

A programme of activities for the 320km corridor has been identified to be delivered over the next 30 years.

SH1 Clarence to Oaro safety and amenity improvements Detailed Business Case

The 'SH1 Clarence to Oaro safety and amenity improvements project' is the first of the SH1 Picton to Christchurch PBC and has been fast-tracked so it can be delivered by NCTIR alongside the earthquake reinstatement work. This will mean less disruption and increased efficiency for customers on the route.

The Clarence to Oaro improvements programme will improve safety, reliability, access and amenity to support tourism and the economic recovery of Kaikoura.

Download the SH1 Clarence to Oaro business case executive summary overlay [PDF, 2.4 MB]


The strategic case for SH1 Picton to Christchurch covers the geographical area between Picton, in Marlborough, and Belfast in Christchurch. This is a 320km section of SH1 with an average journey time of approximately four hours. It includes the main urban areas of Picton, Blenheim, Kaikōura, Amberley and Woodend. It has steep hilly sections at Weld Pass, the Seddon Hills, the Hundalee Hills and the Cheviot Hills. It also has long narrow windy sections along the Kaikōura coast.

SH1 is classified as a national strategic route and is a high productivity motor vehicle (HPMV) route. There are important connections and tourism destinations in Nelson, Tasman, the West Coast, Kaikōura and Hanmer Springs.

This section of SH1 is also a local purpose route, with forestry and agricultural vehicles in heavy use for beef and sheep farming throughout the region, horticulture and viticulture around Blenheim, the Awatere Valley and the Waipara Valley, and forestry and tourism in Kaikōura.

Several Transport Agency plans recognise this route and the adjacent rail corridor along the east coast of the South Island as the primary freight route linking the North Island and the South Island via the interisland ferries that run between Wellington and Picton. The draft South Island Freight Plan identifies substantial increases in freight are forecast in the longer term.

Strategic case

The Strategic case [PDF, 10 MB], the first of the investigation phases, is now complete. It has identified several problems that we will explore further in the next stage of our investigation.