Internationally there is an increasing expectation for roadways to have a minimal environmental footprint, to express local environmental and cultural context, and to protect or respect natural, historical and landscape assets – in addition to being efficient and safe. New Zealand depends on the integrity of its clean green brand and the highways are the shop window of the nation and critical to the impression gained by overseas tourists and traders, but also to residents. Legibility of heritage is a sign of identity, protectiveness and cultural maturity. Key elements that should be revealed are geo-morphology, indigenous biota, Maori and colonial culture. This can be achieved through conservation, restoration and interpretation. Engagement with communities, iwi, engineers and ecologists is crucial, and culture change has to be championed at the highest level. Leadership must reinforce the latent interest in asserting an Aotearoa New Zealand identity. Aspirational milestones for ‘naturalising’ the highways should be set. Planting guidelines are appropriate to conventional requirements while contributing to these goals. Despite start-up costs, the system will become cheaper to run while the heritage assets will increase in value and become largely self-sustaining. The natural environment and cultural asset management process is designed to address these national and local priorities.