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Big bill for SH2 roadworks

Waka Kotahi NZTA’s SH2 Masterton to Carterton safety project, which finished main construction this month, cost $26.4 million as of August 31.

The project was first proposed by Waka Kotahi in 2018 with the intention of improving safety on the section of the highway by lowering the speed limit, widening the road, building three roundabouts, and installing a wire median barrier.

The most recent Waka Kotahi business case for the project, completed in 2019, estimated the project would deliver $1.20 of benefits for every $1 of spending [a benefit-cost ratio of 1.2].

The Masterton to Carterton safety project was coupled with a speed review between Masterton and Featherston, which resulted in the open highway speed limit being lowered from 100kmh to 80kmh along the entire section. The safety improvements and speed review were part of Waka Kotahi’s wider ‘Road to Zero’ strategy, which has the goal of dramatically reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

The section between Masterton and Carterton had five fatal and 29 serious crashes between 2000 and 2022.

Of those, one fatal crash and three serious crashes had inappropriate speed listed as a crash factor.

The transport agency did not undertake a benefit-cost ratio analysis for the Masterton to Featherston speed review.

Waka Kotahi national infrastructure delivery manager Mark Kirvig said the speed limit was reduced to 80kmh in an effort to stop people from dying or being seriously injured if they crashed.

“Each death and serious injury on our roads has a devastating and wide-reaching impact,” Kirvig said.

The transport agency conducted community consultations on the safety project and speed review in 2018 and 2021.

Roundabout road layout cause chaos on the road between Carterton and Masterton. PHOTO/FLYNN NICHOLLS

The 2021 consultation caused public controversy because – despite receiving feedback from 1300 members of the public and community organisations opposed the proposal – Waka Kotahi made no changes to it afterwards.

Most submitters supported the roundabouts but opposed the open highway speed limit reductions and the closing of passing lanes.

The contract for the safety project was tendered to Higgins in April 2022.

Waka Kotahi spent $2.5 million on the project before contractors physically started work in August 2022.

The original plan was to build the roundabouts one at a time over two years, but Waka Kotahi decided to build all three at once to complete the project in one year, thus reducing total disruption.

For the next 12 months, the roadworks caused lengthy traffic jams and delays in the region, with vehicles crawling through kilometres of road cones on SH2 at 50kmh or less.

Contractors widened the road, installed a wire median barrier, built a truck turnaround bay at Clareville, and built roundabouts at Ngaumutawa Rd, Norfolk Rd, and Wiltons Rd. They will return in November or December to lay the top asphalt layer and paint road markings.

As of August 31 this year, Waka Kotahi has spent $23.9 million on the project’s physical implementation, bringing the total spend to $26.4 million.


  1. Incredible what you can do with a fee-flow of money & very little accountability.
    We should be opening up the region not closing it down.
    It’s the regions main artery!
    I believe we should be planning bypasses for Carterton & Greytown- for safety reasons as well!.
    Planning them now so they are put in within the next 20yrs

  2. Totally agree 👍 and as for the disruption to road user’s and residents showed the planning and management of traffic was completely mismanaged by CDC AND NZTA.

  3. That is an extraordinary cost and deserves much closer scrutiny. But it is not the full cost – the disruption caused to motorists generally and regular commuters in particular during the seemingly never-ending saga of that road construction resulted in additional vehicle fuel and maintenance costs, the cost of lost time at work, the cost of extra time used in travel, and the personal cost in terms of general wellbeing. That project was grossly mismanaged and coordinated from the point of view of tax payers and road users. The finished product does not represent anywhere close to value for money.

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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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