State Highway 3 (New Zealand)

State Highway 3 (SH 3) is one of New Zealand's eight national state highways. It serves the west coast of the country's North Island and forms a link between State Highway 1 and State Highway 2. Distances are measured from north to south.

State Highway 3 NZ.svg

State Highway 3
Route information
Maintained by NZ Transport Agency
Length500 km (300 mi)
Major junctions
North end SH 1 (Lorne Street/Normandy Drive) at Hamilton
  SH 4 south at Eight Mile Junction (11 km (6.8 mi) south of Te Kuiti)
SH 4 north (Putiki Drive) at Whanganui
SH 1 north (High Street) at Bulls
SH 1 south (Wellington Road) at Sanson
South end SH 2 (Vogel Street/McLean Street) at Woodville
Te Awamutu, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, New Plymouth, Hawera, Whanganui, Palmerston North Woodville
Highway system
SH 2SH 4

For most of its length SH 3 is a two-lane single carriageway, with at-grade intersections and property accesses, both in rural and urban areas.


A MokauAwakino horse track was widened to a dray track about 1897.[1] It was then possible for a horse and buggy to cover the 110 mi (180 km) – now 162 km – from New Plymouth to Te Kuiti in 17½ hours.[2] The first car to traverse the route from Auckland to New Plymouth seems to have been an 8 hp Cadillac in 1905, though Otorohanga to Te Kuiti was by train and, between Awakino and Mokau, a horse assisted on the beach.[3]

A 1910 Te Kuiti meeting called for metalling of the road to Awakino.[4] Mt Messenger tunnel opened in 1916 and its single lane was enlarged about 1983.[5] £3,000 (2016 equivalent $280,000)[6] was provided in 1919[7] for the Awakino Gorge section, including the tunnel (enlarged in 2011),[8] and it was opened in March 1923 at a total cost of about £60,000[9] (2016 equivalent $5.8m).[6] Most of the route was gazetted as a government main highway in 1924,[10] some sections were tar-sealed in 1925[11] and more work had been done on the road by 1936, leaving only a few mud sections.[12] By 1949 the road was sealed as far south as Te Kuiti and the reinforced concrete bridge over the Waipa at Otorohanga had been started.[13]

Mokau Bridge opened 1927

The 12 ft (3.7 m) wide, single-lane,[11] 11-span, 670 ft (200 m), steel,[14] Mokau Bridge[15] opened in October 1927[16] (official opening 17 December), replacing a punt. The cost was £35,000[17] (2016 equivalent $3.3m).[6] It had a lifting span allowing passage of vessels up to 50 ft (15 m) wide and with a 60 ft (18 m) clearance at high tide.[15] In 2001 the 1927 bridge was replaced by the current 9-span, 230 m (250 yd), double lane, pre-stressed concrete bridge for $6.2m[18] (2016 equivalent $8.5m).[6] The new bridge doesn't allow for shipping, as the first ship to pass under the old lifting span was withdrawn three months after the bridge opened.[19]

An 1871 account of a coach journey from New Plymouth to Wellington described the very poor road round the coast via Opunake to Whanganui and the much better and well used road south from there. A government subsidy of £3,000 (2016 equivalent $400,000)[6] a year was being paid for the coach north of Whanganui.[20]


Tunnel at the north end of the Awakino Gorge. There is another short tunnel near the top of Mount Messenger

The highway leaves SH 1 at Hamilton, and initially heads south through farmland, passing through Te Awamutu. Sections of this stretch of the road are four-laned, but not divided carriageway. From Otorohanga it follows the valley of the Waipa River to Te Kuiti. The road then turns southwest through sparsely settled farmland, crossing several ridges before following the Awakino gorge to reach the coast, which it follows around the North Taranaki Bight. At the Tongaporutu River the highway turns inland to avoid coastal cliffs and climbs over Mount Messenger before descending via the Mimi River valley to return to the coast near Urenui. Bypassing Waitara, it reaches New Plymouth then turns inland, passing to the east of Mount Taranaki via Inglewood, Stratford and Eltham to Hawera.

From Hawera the highway follows the coast of the South Taranaki Bight southeastwards to Patea and Whanganui before meeting SH 1 again at Bulls. SH 1 and 3 share their route for 6 km as they cross the Rangitikei River to Sanson, where SH 3 continues southeast towards Palmerston North. After crossing the Manawatu River, the route follows its south bank through the Manawatu Gorge to its terminus and junction with SH 2 at Woodville in the Tararua District

Both the Awakino and Manawatu gorges are prone to closure by slips and rockslides in heavy rain.

Route changesEdit

Construction of a bypass of Bell Block, a satellite town of New Plymouth, was completed in 2010. The bypass is a four-lane, divided expressway with an interchange at Henwood Road providing access to Bell Block.[21]

In 2016, a section of SH 3 in Taranaki was realigned replacing the "deadly" Normanby overbridge.[22]

Future improvementsEdit

On 27 January 2016, funding was announced for road bypasses of the two tunnels north of New Plymouth. Construction of the Mount Messenger and Awakino Gorge tunnel bypasses was expected to begin within two years.[23]

State Highway 3 will also form part of the future/proposed Southern Links motorway project in the South/West of Hamilton and Tamahere.[24]

The highway through the Manawatu Gorge between Ashhurst and Woodville in the Manawatū-Whanganui region was closed in April 2017 due to a large slip, with SH 3 traffic diverted via Saddle Road. Contractors were pulled out of clearing the slip in July 2017 due to ongoing geological movement in the hill, closing the road indefinitely.[25] The NZTA began fast-tracking a long-term solution to bypass and replace the gorge. In March 2018, the NZTA announced a bypass would be built to the north of the gorge, but south of the Saddle Road.[26] Known as Te Ahu a Turanga/Manawatū Tararua Highway, construction of the $620 million road is expected to begin in 2020 and be completed by 2024.[27]

Spur sectionsEdit


State Highway 3A
LocationSH 3 west of Waitara – SH 3 at Inglewood
Length15.6 km (9.7 mi)

SH 3 has one spur, designated State Highway 3A. This 15.6 km stretch links State Highway 3 just west of Waitara to Inglewood, providing a shortcut and bypass of New Plymouth. The entire length of highway carries the name Mountain Road with the sole exception being a very short link of Rata Street in Inglewood to rejoin SH 3.

Major junctionsEdit

Territorial authority Location km jct Destinations Notes
Hamilton City Melville 0     SH 1 north (Kahikatea Drive) – Auckland
  SH 1 south (Lorne Street) – Rotorua, Taupo
SH 3 begins
1   Normandy Ave – City Centre, Rotorua to   SH 1/Thermal Explorer Highway south
Waipa District Hamilton Airport 10     SH 21 (Airport Road) – Airport, Mystery Creek The roundabout was completed in June 2016 at a cost about $4.5 million to improve safety, after five deaths in five years.[28]
Otorohanga District Otorohanga 55      SH 31 / SH 39 (Te Kanawa Street) – Kawhia, Ngāruawāhia Alternative route to Auckland, bypassing Hamilton
Waitomo District Hangatiki 65     SH 37 (Waitomo Caves Road) – Waitomo Caves The $3.6 million roundabout opened in June 2015,[29] about 60 m (200 ft) north of the previous junction.[30] It followed two deaths in 2012.[31]
Te Kuiti 76     SH 30 (Awakino Road) – Rotorua, Taupo
Eight Mile Junction 88     SH 4Taumarunui, National Park
New Plymouth District Brixton 229     SH 3A (Mountain Road) – Inglewood, Whanganui Alternative route to Southern Taranaki, bypassing New Plymouth
New Plymouth 240     SH 44 (Eliot Street) – Port Taranaki
  SH 45 eastbound (Courtenay Street)
    SH 45 westbound (Leach Street) – City Centre, Opunake
Inglewood 258     SH 3A (Rata Street) – Hamilton Alternative route to Hamilton, bypassing New Plymouth
Stratford District Stratford 279     SH 43 (Regan Street) – Taumarunui
South Taranaki District Hawera 310     SH 45 (South Road) – Opunake
Whanganui District Whanganui 402   Whanganui River
Putiki     SH 4 (Putiki Drive) – City Centre, National Park
Wikitoria Road – Whanganui Airport
Rangitikei District Bulls 445     SH 1 north (High Street) – Taupo SH 1/SH 3 concurrency begins
447   Rangitikei River
Manawatu District
Sanson 450     SH 1 south (Wellington Road) – Wellington SH 1/SH 3 concurrency ends
Newbury 468     SH 54 (Kairanga Bunnythorpe Road) – Feilding
Palmerston North City Ashhurst 488   Manawatu River
    SH 57 (Fitzherbert East Road) – Levin
Tararua District 495   Manawatu River
Woodville 500     SH 2 north (Vogel Street) – Napier
  SH 2 south (McLean Street) – Masterton, Wellington
SH 3 ends

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Communication Between Auckland And Taranaki". The New Zealand Herald. 21 June 1897. p. 5. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Overland to Auckland". Taranaki Herald. 11 April 1902. p. 1. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Through King Country On A Motor". The New Zealand Herald. 5 April 1905. p. 6. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  4. ^ "King Country Roads". Waikato Argus. 18 January 1910. p. 4. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  5. ^ Ron. "Mt Messenger Tunnel – SHW 3". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Inflation calculator – Reserve Bank of New Zealand". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Public Works Estimates". Taranaki Daily News. 25 October 1919. p. 2. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Works planned to trim back the inside walls of the Awakino Tunnel on State Highway 3 NZ Transport Agency". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Link With Taranaxi". The New Zealand Herald. 31 March 1923. p. 10. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Main Roads". The Evening Post. 13 June 1924. p. 10. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Road To Taranaki". The New Zealand Herald. 7 May 1925. p. 8. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Better Roads". The New Zealand Herald. 19 October 1936. p. 10. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  13. ^ "AtoJs Online — Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1949 Session I — D-01 MINISTRY OF WORKS STATEMENT (BY THE HON. R. SEMPLE, MINISTER OF WORKS)". p. 53. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Mokau River Bridge". The New Zealand Herald. 6 July 1925. p. 8. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Mokau River Bridge". The New Zealand Herald. 17 December 1927. p. 12. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Main Highway From Auckland To Taranaki Now Completed: The Mokau River Bridge Open For Traffic Photographs Taken On Friday Last. Left: A View From The Bridge Showing Cars Waiting For The Lift-span In The Middle Of The Structure To Be Lowered. Right: A General View Of The New Bridge, Which Eliminates The Ancient Ferry-punt So Well Known To Travellers On Thete Kuiti-new Plymouth Section Of The Route. The Opening Of The Bridge Will Expedite Overland Travel And Incidentally Enable The New ' ' Zealand Herald To Reach New Plymouth Earlier Every Day". The New Zealand Herald. 17 October 1927. p. 6. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  17. ^ "Mokau Bridge Opened". Press. 19 December 1927. p. 10. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  18. ^ "Mokau Bridge – Smithbridge". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  19. ^ Duckett, Graeme (9 November 2013). "The story of the steamer Wetere". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  20. ^ "New Plymouth To Wellington" Overland". Taranaki Herald. 2 August 1871. p. 2. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  21. ^ Maetzig, Rob (12 March 2010). "Bypass ready to roll". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  22. ^ David Burroughs (16 October 2016). "Normanby overbridge bypass ready for use from Monday". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Key's state of the nation – full speech". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Southern Links".
  25. ^ "Manawatu Gorge to remain closed 'for some time'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  26. ^ "Preferred option for SH3 Manawatū Gorge replacement announced". The New Zealand Herald. 15 March 2018. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Government green-lights $620m new Manawatu Gorge highway". Newshub. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  28. ^ "SH3/21 Intersection improvement". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  29. ^ "Work wrapping up on new King Country roundabout". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  30. ^ "SH3/SH37 Waitomo Intersection". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  31. ^ "NZTA to finish Waitomo Caves roundabout". Stuff. Retrieved 7 December 2018.

External linksEdit