The NZTA yesterday announced they’ve awarded a $1 billion contract to build another bypass of Hamilton and comes after they spent $200 million on the existing bypass at Te Rapa which opened three years ago. Construction won’t begin till next spring as the contract includes the detailed design work which will take place first.

A consortium of contractors and designers has been awarded a contract to build the biggest roading project to be undertaken in the Waikato, the NZ Transport Agency says.

The 21 kilometre long Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway will be constructed by a group made up of Fletcher, Beca, Higgins and Coffey (FBHC), in an alliance with the Transport Agency.

The proposed design for the section includes five interchanges, 17 bridges and new connecting roads at Ruakura Road and Resolution Drive.

Waikato Expressway - Hamilton Bypass

As usual with these things there seems to be a fair amount of artistic licence that goes into the press releases. For example

The project is one of seven sections of the Waikato Expressway, a Road of National Significance (RoNS)identified by the Government as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth.

Once all seven sections are complete, the expressway is expected to cut travel times between Auckland and Tirau by up to 35 minutes and significantly improving safety.

So how much of that claimed 35 minute savings comes from this project and how much from the other sections that have already been completed or are under way? Including the time savings of other projects was one of the key criticisms of the NZTA by the board of inquiry that rejected the Basin Reserve Flyover in Wellington.


“The expressway connects inter-regional traffic with local destinations which is vital for the economy and for our vibrant communities. We have to get these things right and we can only do that if we partner up,” she says.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker says the project is important to growth and development in Hamilton and the wider Waikato region.

“We have been waiting in anticipation for completion of the Hamilton section of the expressway and it’s great to have this work now locked in,” she says.

“It is a fantastic project that will deliver considerable value to Hamilton’s economy and lifestyle.”

I’m not quite sure how a rural motorway out past the edge of town is going to do anything to make communities in Hamilton more vibrant and isn’t the point to allow traffic to bypass the city and get to or from Auckland faster. The project also isn’t likely to do much to the economy either. Even by 2041 some sections are still expected to have fewer than 10,000 vehicles per day using them – and that’s likely using the NZTAs often over-optimistic assumptions. Another way of putting that is it’s on par with what the old Kopu bridge carried back when it was a single lane bridge.


I suspect that if this section was assessed on it’s own it might be lucky to scrape above a BCR of 0.2

I wonder how liveable and vibrant Hamilton would be if $1 billion was spent on projects that more directly benefited locals?

Share this


  1. Well, me thinks these projects are terrible for hamilton but good for auckland. More specifically, connecting auckland rural hinterland will benefit former at expense of latter.

    1. Absolutely true, in the same way that the Puhoi-Warkworth highway will have agglomeration effects, but that these will be to agglomerate towards the big city and away from periphery. Because by easing travel to the big city will make businesses there more competitive for rural users than local ones. These big projects will not help Northland or Hamilton become anything other than distant and vapid satellites of Auckland.

      Yet the local powers that be are always gaga for them. Go figure; I guess they’re big spending in their area, and local’s will get some trickledown during construction, then once the diggers are gone they’ll just scratch their heads about their flat local economy and semi-absent long commuting residents…

    2. The bypass around Taupo only improved Taupo which the naysayers didn’t expect. Taupo is now even more vibrant without the long haul trucks running through all hours of the day and night.

      1. yes the Taupo bypass seems to work well. Whether it was worth the money I don’t know … Also, I don’t think Taupo is particularly relevant to Hamilton, as 1) Hamilton already has several bypasses of the town centre and 2) the Waikato Expressway costs a butt load more than the Taupo bypass.

      2. Where are you getting that information from? I heard that the Taupo McDonald’s immediately dropped 30% of revenue and the Tokoroa McDonald’s picked up 30% of revenue.

        I’m not arguing the bypass is a bad thing for Taupo as it’s great to get rid of trucks from town (especially the smelly stock trucks), but I’d be loath to allow the development of a big box store area out where the Mitre10 Mega store is as I think that would kill the town centre (much as it has done in small town America where large stores have relocated out of town and next to the interstate).

      3. My observation has been that it hasn’t made much difference at all except removing the trucks from the town centre (which is worthwhile on it’s own). Whenever I drive on it, it is largely devoid of cars, which makes sense given there aren’t many people driving from Auckland/Hamilton to Palmerston North/Wellington on a given day, most traffic is travelling in and out of Taupo.

        I’m a big fan of bypasses generally, just can’t see the need for a four lane motorway skirting Hamilton, when there are other options.

      1. If the issue was freight, the next big project would be significant investments in the rail network, far more than quoted in Patrick’s comment at 3.13. Imagine the capacity that a double-tracked line from Tauranga right through to Auckland (except the tunnel) electrified at 25kV AC would bring.

        If it was passenger movements, the answer would be the same. The above line could be built to a high standard to enable 150 km/h passenger service running without much difficulty – the terrain is mostly flat and there are few impediments to rail improvements outside of Hamilton itself.

        If it was economic efficiency and network redundancy the answer would also be the same. Motorway investments like this one have long since passed the point of diminishing returns setting in (hence the BCRs not being publicised). And the unaddressed capacity constraints such as south of the Hamilton Southern Interchange are the same. What will be next? A bypass of Cambridge? Tirau? Motorways only beget more motorways. Alternative modes and alternative thinking are desperately needed.
        It is genuinely sad that it takes organisations like the Transport Blog to think outside the box and consider initiatives such as Auckland – Hamilton – Tauranga passenger rail that would be transformative, provide congestion relief, network resilience, alternative routes of transport etc., in one fell swoop. All of the things that the NZTA claims their motorway projects will achieve, in fact, but can never hope to. Just imagine.

        1. Well there you go, thanks for that. And thanks to John Lawson above, we have the cost, $250 million. Incredible how these costs add up, and how little scrutiny there has been of it all. Does anyone know what the BCR was for each section?

        2. The problem you are talking about is going to come on SH29 across the Kaimais which will become the main route from AKL to Tauranga once the expressway opens and is not really built for that amount of traffic. Hopefully by then NZTA might have a different funding model and an alternative approach to blasting a motorway through the Kaimais is taken (Hint: Rail).

    1. As anyone who uses these Eldorado’s south of Auckland know, once you hit the southern motorway proper or Otahuhu during daylight hours, the whole trip seizes up. You can spend damn near as long getting to Newmarket as you do coming from Huntly. And the only temporary cure to that problem is to widen the southern motorway to 10 lanes but even with NZTA’s bottomless pit of money, that ain’t gonna happen!

      They are an appalling waste of money.

  2. The whole “boosting of the economy” argument is so vacuous, yet is trotted out for any motorway project without a single piece of evidence. Imagine what a billion dollar investment in educational facilities would do in Hamilton for instance. Same for the billion dollar Puhoi Warkworth toll road. If Northland’s economy really was a concern, why not invest a billion dollars in the University of the Far North?

    1. Exactly. I’m sure if you said to the business leaders of Northland ‘here’s a billion dollars, give us some projects to make Northland more prosperous’ I doubt ‘motorway in Auckland’ would make the list.

  3. I wonder how much cheaper it would have been to simply link existing roads out of eastern Hamilton to SH1B with interchanges. Probably in the order of $800million cheaper.

    This is so typical of the NZTA, NZ’s most wasteful organisation.

  4. Check out what’s happening to Hamilton as indicated by dwelling prices. In particular note the last line. Hamilton is becoming less of a city and more just a distant suburb of Auckland. And, these highway investments mean that, as a dormitory satellite town of the big smoke, it will be an ever increasing contributor to traffic congestion in Auckland. Those commuting from the Waikato, absent any decent alternative, will be driving, and driving a lot. This is a very very poor idea, for Hamilton as a place and Auckland too: Hamilton’s loss here is not Auckland’s gain. But not thought through of course.

  5. While I completely agree that within Auckland it is wasteful to spend money on roads when there are many better pt options, I think in this case there is a need for a decent road connecting Auckland and the central north island. 1B is a joke, going through Hamilton adds 30 mins and 27 via matamata always seems busy and dangerous.

    1. I have driven 1B quite a bit and have never encountered congestion. 1B could easily be upgraded for far less money as said above. Does this project not even have a BCR? That’s appalling. Bring back Transfund!

      1. Yep there’s about 4 intersections on 1B that once fixed would make that a great bypass of Hamilton.

        NZTA don’t seem to always release individual BCRs in press releases. If you have a look around the project site you can usually find the number buried in a report. Or ask them on Twitter.

        1. conan – can’t agree more. Fix the intersections on 1B and then you have a very nice bypass road for minimal money. (The road itself is formed perfectly well). I thought the whole point of redesignating and upgrading the roads along the 1B route was to provide a bypass?

          jimbojones – the reason SH27 via Matamata seems busy and dangerous is because no money has been put into fixing the dangerous bits of SH2 and SH27 under the present Government. The funding has all been diverted into the marquee SH1 projects, which are not only more expensive per km but which don’t solve the issue of getting traffic from Auckland to south of Hamilton quicker… until NZTA throw another billion at another motorway.


        2. Here’s a thought.
          1. Cancel this SH1 bypass.
          2. Fix the two killer sections of SH2 remaining between the Bombays and the SH25 turnoff (the plans are completed, funding is the only issue) to the same standard as the section already done north of Maramarua.
          3. Deviate SH27 around the hilly bit south of the SH2 turnoff (if you look to the east as you slowly wind over the hill you can see a pancake-flat section of the Hauraki Plains waiting for a bypass road). The latter would likely end up costing less in the long term as the current hill road needs costly maintenance due to frequent slips.

          Cost: Far, far less than 1 billion. Result: Fast, flat road from the Bombays all the way to Tirau. Effectiveness: I would imagine just as much as the new SH1 bypass (there is plenty of capacity on SH27 most of the time). Only stumbling block: A modicum of lateral thinking at the NZTA.
          This then leaves plenty of funding for any other project you like – be it rail upgrades, roading projects, whatever. Everything else and everywhere else are the losers from this mistake – the opportunity cost is enormous.
          What a crying shame this is, what a terrible failure of public administration. How very, very sad.

        3. I’ve always wondered whether SH 2 and SH 27 could be upgraded as a more suitable bypass from Auckland to Taupo. According to Google Maps it’s still the quickest route to take to get from Auckland to Taupo and Rotorua, as well as Tauranga (via SH 24 and 29). It just happens to be on one of the most unsafe state highway links in the country.

          I guess the new Hamilton expressway once built will change all that. Just with a hefty pricetag

        4. Last time I counted 10 intersections on 1B, all of them need to be improved or removed. And the road is quite narrow and not really up to state highway standards. While it would be much cheaper than the expressway it wouldn’t be that cheap to get up to a reasonable safe standard.

        5. I agree SH1B should be left to return to a collection of country roads, it was only ever meant as a temporary bypass and has far too many driveways to ever be safe as the main bypass.

          I think Glen’s suggestion above is the best – good high speed upgrades to SH2 and SH27.

          If they are determined to have a bypass immediately to the east of Hamilton, then build it to the standard of the Taupo bypass with one-lane each way with regular passing lanes and roundabouts instead of interchanges. It can be upgraded to motorway standard in the future if necessary.

    2. State Highway 1B is annoying that is gives priority to several local roads.
      I’m pretty sure 1B was gazetted (in the 1990s) to only be a temporary bypass until a more permanent one is built.

  6. Couldnt they have just upgraded 1b, this project has got to be for the larger and heavier trucks.

    How much would 2 billion spent on the railway have brought instead?

    1. Well a quick googling came up with this:

      Doubling capacity on the ECMT for 13m versus 1 Billion for one segment of the Waikato Autobahn. Talk about rail, the more sustainable and less deadly mode, being the poor cousin!

      Growing customer demand for additional rail freight services between Hamilton and Tauranga has seen a further $500,000 earmarked for the East Coast Main Trunk rail line.

      KiwiRail and the Waikato Regional Transport Committee have confirmed the investment will be used to develop the Tamihana passing loop which will be extended from its current length of 900 metres to 2.2 kilometres.

      A passing loop allows opposing trains to pass each other on a single track railway line such as the East Coast Main Trunk (ECMT) allowing more trains to run.

      KiwiRail’s infrastructure and engineering northern regional manager, Stephen Collett, said the project was the final element in a series of improvements to rail infrastructure over the past five years to improve capacity, reliability and safety in the Waikato region. The works have been funded by the $13 million Joint Officials Group (JOG) fund allocated to the region by Government in 2006.

      The passing loop is at the halfway point between Tauranga and Hamilton and at the junction of the Kinleith branch. It is one of two new passing loops along the route. A further three have been extended to allow for longer trains as part of the JOG series of projects.

      “Once work on all the passing loops is completed later this year, the line’s capacity will double from two trains an hour (one in each direction) to four trains an hour (two in each direction),” Mr Collett said.

      JOG funding of $235,000 has also been confirmed to upgrade the facilities at the Wawa Rd public rail siding near Kinleith to enable growth in containerised freight from the south Waikato.

      The improvements will include extending the siding to cater for 12 wagons and laying down paving for heavy vehicles up to 30 tonnes, fencing and signage.

      Mr Collett said initiatives to improve existing rail facilities at Putaruru, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti had been investigated by the Waikato Regional Council and KiwiRail.

      “However, as there was still uncertainty around potential future business opportunities in these towns it was decided to defer any investment and prioritise investment in the East Coast Main Trunk where there is existing demand.”

  7. I guess that long term we’ll have motorway all the way to Wellington. Seems as soon as a motorway is built there is congestion at the end of it where it meets the state highway again so the next extension needs to be built. It will enable the trucking industry to compete more successfully with the rail corridor.

  8. Have been riding China’s vast network of motorways these last few weeks. Bugger all cars and trucks on the motorways between Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai for example. Where are all the freight and passengers?…on the intercity trains. CN Cities are clogged with vehicle traffic but no one uses the motorways between the hinterland and urban areas – they all use the trains (many of them high speed Bullet Train grade) and the vast majority of freight intercity is moved via train. Motorways between cities are predominantly empty!

    1. 10 years ago the Shanghai-Suzhou toll road had times during the day when a good portion of it was bumper-bumper, 3-4 lanes each way. There were other times when you could zip between cars at 140. I can‘t imagine its any better today.
      Rail is a much cheaper way to travel in China and also generally crowded, except for the expensive maglev.

      1. The G50 toll road had less than 100 cars along its entire length when I traversed it on Wednesday 11 Nov between 11:00 and 17:00.

  9. claimed a 1.8 BCR and NZTA is now claiming over 2%, but said 0.5%. It doesn’t help with the calculation that NZTA doesn’t know the total cost of the road. They know the recent bits they’ve done, but have no record of the earlier costs. My guesstimate is $2.7bn, which is significantly higher than a similar length of brand new 350kph railway would have cost. The time savings are “up to” 35 mins. If extra traffic is generated, congestion at either end could greatly reduce that. Already Tirau is jammed at peak periods and we all know about Auckland congestion.

    1. If you look on the project site at the bottom each of the seven parts are listed and the cost is there. You are pretty much spot on with your guesstimate, it’s $2717m if my adding s correct.

      1. Where did you find $2717? I can only find projects totalling $2434, but can’t find any estimate of the costs for Bombay to Mercer and the Tamahere section. Based on the lengths, I guessed they’d be an extra $150m or so. The ones I’ve found are Cambridge $250m (, Hamilton $972.94m (, Avalon Dr $41m (, Te Rapa $195m (, Ngaruawahia $190m (, Huntly $458 (, Ohinewai $24m (, Rangiriri $105m (, Longswamp $115.09 (, Mercer to Longswamp $83.5m (

  10. Just noting that area to the east designated ‘potential future development’. I’ll be willing to bet there is nothing the least bit ‘potential’ about it.

    The new motorway will become, for all practical purposes, a new northern and eastern boundary of the Hamilton urban area. I have no doubt the private developers will already be planning the tract housing infill of all that greenfield land east and north of the city that will effectively be cut off from the rest of the Waikato Plains.

    I confidently predict that the real-estate blurb will emphasise that these new ‘investment properties’ are only 90 minutes from Auckland.

  11. I’ve been saying for years the way they have described it is a con job. They’ve always referred to them as the Te Rapa and Hamilton sections of the Waikato Expressway, when in fact they are Waikato Expressway 1 and Waikato Expressway 2.

    Northern main road access into Hamilton is being expanded from 2 lanes on the old SH1, to 10 lanes, being the old SH1 (2 lanes), Waikato Expressway 1 (4 lanes), and Waikato Expressway 2 (4 lanes).

    Meanwhile, rail-wise, KiwiRail has just sold off the Cambridge station land. Zero chance of Cambridge ever being part of a regional passenger rail service now. Ironically, NZTA future-proofed the Cambridge rail corridor where it’s crossed by the Expressway, whilst KiwiRail was preparing to sell the station land. That clearly demonstrates NZTA are the better party to be managing the rail network.

      1. Nice call Geoff. If the NZTA had been upfront about the sheer scale of what they were planning, maybe people would have begun to question whether such massive yet narrow investment was really a good idea.

        And re the Cambridge Branch, I would imagine KiwiRail selling the Cambridge station land is because they only see use for the Cambridge Branch in servicing the Hautapu dairy factory. How much did they get for the station land versus its potential future use? Again, a failure of vision by our public servants.

  12. I have a big issue with using road safety as an argument for building a new road: once the new road is built, all the old roads remain unsafe. If a road is unsafe, you don’t build a new road, you need to make the existing road safer.

    1. Sensible speculation you would think but thanks to our ‘relaxed’ regulations about political donations, we will never know. Won’t be direct to transport agencies from those who benefit from prioritisation of certain activities over others. Vroom vroom.

  13. Regretfully failed political direction continues and is coupled with a professionally substandard and out of control NZTA.
    When will they ever learn……….. O we poor taxpayers – I for one want a better outcome for our taxpaying contribution.

  14. It’s also worth mentioning, NZTA are investigating options for extending the Te Rapa section around the south side of Hamilton and back to SH1. I.e., completing two through-routes through Hamilton.

  15. AT have opposed subsidising AK-Hamiltron passenger rail on the grounds that they don’t want Hamilton to become a dormitory suburb of Auckland. But given that the roading lobby is making it happen anyway, perhaps they should change their minds.

  16. As an avid reader of Transportblog (but first time commenter), I find myself in in a rare disagreement with the OP. I think that he’s been a little mis-guided to suggest that the expressway is a ‘bypass of a bypass’.

    The Te Rapa section of the expressway is basically a link from the main route, over the river and onto the existing road network through the western suburbs of Hamilton. A quick glance at Google Streetview would confirm that this is a built-up area, and moreover, on Kahiketea Drive, SH1 becomes a 2 lane, very congested road crossing the rail line on a level crossing, before bisecting the Melville neighbourhood, then subsequently cutting off the Hamilton Gardens from Hamilton East & then ploughing through the Hillcrest neighbourhood on its way south.

    As it currently exists, SH1 through Hamilton has numerous intersections necessitating noisy stop/go trucks 24/7 (I live within 250m of one such intersection), the route is at best described as ‘tortuous’, and crossing the road as a pedestrian or a cyclist is a nightmarish game of roulette (even at the signalled crossings).

    So I find myself in the unenviable position of agreeing with NZTA (as least on a safety case) on a road-building project. A consistent speed, well designed ‘rural motorway’, linking the existing sections of expressway to the north and south of the city will take away the 24/7 through trucks from residential neighbourhoods & improve safety for those who live, walk & cycle in Western / Southern Hamilton (not to mention that SH1B will finally be de-classified to the rural lanes that it really is, thank goodness).

    I should point out that I’m the first to argue that NZTA should be funding a rail improvements (line speed, electrification, etc) and the establishment of a regular passenger service between at least Hamilton & Auckland (even better if Tauranga & Cambridge were included too). I find the politicians’ argument that there is no market to be churlish at best – I’d cite my parents’ home country (Scotland) where well used hourly rail services (and express coaches too) run between two far smaller places (Aberdeen & Inverness) as an example.
    Maybe one day.

  17. Why not build the Bypass with all associated river bridges, the rail bridge and the Link / Ring road, but only connect it at the Northern and Southern Interchanges and at the Greenhill Interchange.
    All other local roads get tied off or pass over / under the Bypass when justified by count.

    See how this scaled back project works with traffic management and then build further connections / interchanges as required.

    Left over budget banked – interest dedicated to Waikato rail / PT using 3 year plans.

  18. This proves that the te rap a section shouldn’t have been built. This on is the right road that should have been started twenty years ago.

  19. Hang on. The diagram of traffic effects shows an intersection of the new bypass with Morrinsville Rd/SH26 which does not appear in the main map. Which is right?

    1. That’s because this map dated 2011 but map above it is 2015, for the resource consent for variation to designation so new road will include an interchange at Ruakura Rd. The expressway then goes under SH26 with no exits. Traffic from expressway wanting to travel to Hillcrest or Morrinsville will now be routed onto Ruakura interchange and realigned Ruakura Rd, either thru Silverdale Rd to Hillcrest, or via Ruakura Rd to another new interchange at about the current exit of the road and SH26. All this change is due to the land between the line of the expressway and Hamilton city suburbs from Silverdale right up to the Greenhill Rd interchange being designated as “Industrial” in the Proposed District Plan. Land is owned by Waikato-Tainui and they plan to build an inland port and/or freight hub to the south of the rail line, with containers coming by rail and goods then being forwarded by road. Hence the need for this interchange as there will be a huge increase in truck and courier-type traffic once the hub is in operation. This freight hub looks likely to be in direct competition with the one planned by Ports of Auckland at Northgate to the north-east of Hamilton. The mayor and council seem to think it is a great idea! But as I see it, it won’t change traffic destinations to Hamilton. Travellers will just keep on going like now and not want to stop, should they decide to, and negotiate their way through a stack of containers, warehouses and roads clogged with trucks. Will be just like coming into Hamilton through Te Rapa in the 1970s.

  20. What effect will this have on the Wairere Drive Motorway/race track?
    The vehicle numbers on the Morrinsville Road/Cambridge Road intersection which is a good example of a street upgrade to motorway/race track status through an urban area trisecting it.
    It seem as though the locals are being really disrupted for a short term Motoring benefit and there needs to be a plan for the mitigation of this short term intervention as soon as possible.

  21. There are two perfectly good Hamilton bypasses already, one to the east and one to the west (even without the existing bypass). If so easily avoidable, why more? I am not a big fan of the place but surely it is a bit rude to say it is that bad that the rest of the country needs half a dozen options to avoid it?

    1. Ultimately, yes. This is a bypass. Of Hamilton. There is no price too high to make sure that our children, and our children’s children, never accidentally end up in Hamilton when they could have bypassed it.

      Just imagine the horror of being in Hamilton. Can you really say that any price is too high to avoid that fate? What if your car stalled and wouldn’t start again? You’d be stuck there. In Hamilton.

      Think of the lower North Island, which has managed to develop a complete State Highway system that completely avoids Palmerston North. Think how much peace of mind that brings people, knowing that they don’t even have to get anywhere close to Palmerston North in order to simply travel around. Is it fair to deny upper North Islanders the same peace of mind in avoiding Hamilton, the Palmerston North of the North?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *