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Arterial road takes shape

Construction is well underway on Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatu Tararua Highway, the new section of State Highway 3 between Woodville and Ashhurst.

Cars and trucks travelling from Wairarapa to Manawatu currently have to cross the winding Pahiatua Track, or the equally twisty Saddle Rd.

Work began in January 2021 after Waka Kotahi NZTA permanently closed the Manawatu Gorge following a major slip in 2017.

Now in its second earthworks season, the project team has moved 5.4 million of the six million cubic metres of earth the project requires.

The highway will have two lanes each way and will be built to international-best practice safety standards in order to align with Waka Kotahi’s Road to Zero strategy, which has the goal of zero road deaths in New Zealand.

It will have safety barriers separating traffic to prevent head-on crashes and barriers along the sides to prevent run-off road crashes.

Owner interface manager for the project Grant Kauri said the team of over 300 workers are “making really good progress with the earthworks, which are now mostly complete” – despite some unseasonably wet summers and geological issues.

“It took us several months to complete the first pile on one of our bridges,
the Parahaki Bridge,” he said.

“We had problems when we were excavating and drilling, so we had to rethink our methodology as to how we could complete those piles.”

Kauri said the team also ran into issues with another bridge called the Eco-Viaduct, which is being built to minimise disturbance to the wetland it passes over.

When excavating for the bridge, they encountered 27 metres of headwater pressure which they hadn’t anticipated.

Kauri said that the original completion date of December 2024 has been pushed back to mid-2025 because of the unfavourable ground conditions, engineering problems, and covid.

Extra costs will be incurred as a consequence of extending the programme, on top of the initial $620 million budget.

Despite the delay, Kauri said the project team is proud of the workplace culture, and of the fact that 80 per cent of staff live locally.

Kauri – who was born in Dannevirke and grew up in Woodville – noted that “this project has been really rewarding for
me personally, given how important it is for the region”.

“My mum and dad live in Woodville, so they’re really keeping an eye on me as well.”

Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatu Tararua Highway will become the major connecting road between the eastern and western sides of the lower North Island.

Its initial business case said the highway would return $1.80 of benefits for every $1 spent on construction.

“Before the highway closed, the Manawatu Gorge was tracking just a touch over 7500 vehicles per day, a high percentage of those being heavy vehicles.

“We expect to see those numbers increase with the excitement of a new highway opening,” Kauri said.


  1. Rebuild the geroge instead of spending the all this money for building a new highway. The money they are spending on the building this road could be spent on the geroge. What about intercity they use the saddle road 7 days aweek.

  2. It’s much needed.the closing of the manawatu gorge must of cost millions to businesses,and the public

  3. Great to see the progress and the hiccups along the way, also knowing Grant is one of us Dannevirke boys (Carmichael) and the large amount of local labour involved is awesome. Good luck with the remaining work and look forward to traveling to Palmerston North on your new road.

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Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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