New Zealand State Highway 3

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State Highway 3 NZ.svg

State Highway 3
Route information
Maintained by NZ Transport Agency
Length: 500 km (300 mi)
Major junctions
North end: State Highway 1 NZ.svg SH 1 at Hamilton
South end: State Highway 2 NZ.svg SH 2 at Woodville
Te Awamutu, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, New Plymouth, Hawera, Whanganui, Palmerston North
Highway system
SH 2 SH 4

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.

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 Mokau - Awakino horse track was widened to a dray track about 1897.[1] 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.[2] A 1910 Te Kuiti meeting called for metalling of the road to Awakino.[3] Mt Messenger tunnel opened in 1916 and its single lane was enlarged about 1983.[4] £3,000 (2016 equivalent $280,000)[5] was provided in 1919[6] for the Awakino Gorge section, including the tunnel (enlarged in 2011),[7] and it was opened in March 1923 at a total cost of about £60,000[8] (2016 equivalent $5.8m).[5] Most of the route was gazetted as a government main highway in 1924,[9] some sections were tar-sealed in 1925[10] and more work had been done on the road by 1936, leaving only a few mud sections.[11] 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.[12]

Mokau Bridge opened 1927

The 12 ft (3.7 m) wide, single-lane,[10] 11-span, 670 ft (200 m), steel,[13] Mokau Bridge[14] opened in October 1927[15] (official opening 17 December), replacing a punt. The cost was £35,000[16] (2016 equivalent $3.3m).[5] 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.[14] 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[17] (2016 equivalent $8.5m).[5] The new bridge doesn't allow for shipping, as the first ship to pass under the old lifting span was withdrawn three months after the bridge opened.[18]

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)[5] a year was being paid for the coach north of Whanganui.[19]


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 Wairarapa.

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

Route changes[edit]

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.[20]

In 2016, a section of SH 3 in Taranaki was realigned replacing the "deadly" Normanby overbridge.[21]

Future improvements[edit]

On 27 January 2016, Prime Minister John Key announced funding for road bypasses of the two tunnels north of New Plymouth. Construction of the Mount Messenger and Awakino Gorge tunnel bypasses should begin within two years.[22]

State Highway 3 will also form part of the future/proposed Southern Links motorway project in the South/West of Hamilton and Tamahere.[23]

Other improvements include:

Spur sections[edit]

State Highway 3A
Location: SH 3 west of Waitara – SH 3 at Inglewood
Length: 15.6 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 junctions[edit]

Territorial authority Location km jct Destinations Notes
Hamilton City Melville 0 New Zealand road sign W10-4.svg SH 1 north (Kahikatea Drive) – Auckland
SH 1 south (Lorne Street) – Rotorua, Taupo
SH 3 begins
1 New Zealand road sign W11-1.svg Normandy Ave – City Centre, Rotorua to SH 1/Thermal Explorer Highway south
Waipa District Hamilton Airport 10 New Zealand road sign W11-1.svg SH 21 (Airport Road) – Airport, Mystery Creek
Otorohanga District Otorohanga 55 New Zealand PW-11 (right).svg SH 31/ SH 39 (Te Kanawa Street) – Kawhia, Ngaruawahia Alternative route to Auckland, bypassing Hamilton
Waitomo District Hangatiki 65 New Zealand road sign W11-1.svg SH 37 (Waitomo Caves Road) – Waitomo Caves
Te Kuiti 76 New Zealand road sign R2-2.svg SH 30 (Awakino Road) – Rotorua, Taupo
Eight Mile Junction 88 New Zealand PW-11 (left).svg SH 4Taumarunui, National Park
New Plymouth District Brixton 229 New Zealand PW-11 (left).svg SH 3A (Mountain Road) – Inglewood, Whanganui Alternative route to Southern Taranaki, bypassing New Plymouth
New Plymouth 240 New Zealand road sign W10-4.svg SH 44 (Eliot Street) – Port Taranaki
SH 45 eastbound (Courtenay Street)
New Zealand road sign W10-4.svg SH 45 westbound (Leach Street) – City Centre, Opunake
Inglewood 258 New Zealand road sign W11-2.1 R.svg SH 3A (Rata Street) – Hamilton Alternative route to Hamilton, bypassing New Plymouth
Stratford District Stratford 279 New Zealand road sign W11-1.svg SH 43 (Regan Street) – Taumarunui
South Taranaki District Hawera 310 New Zealand road sign R2-2.svg SH 45 (South Road) – Opunake
Whanganui District Whanganui 402 New Zealand PW-44.svg Whanganui River
Putiki New Zealand road sign W11-1.svg SH 4 (Putiki Drive) – City Centre, National Park
Wikitoria Road – Whanganui Airport
Rangitikei District Bulls 445 New Zealand PW-11 (left).svg SH 1 north (High Street) – Taupo SH 1/SH 3 concurrency begins
447 New Zealand PW-44.svg Rangitikei River
Manawatu District
Sanson 450 New Zealand PW-11 (right).svg SH 1 south (Wellington Road) – Wellington SH 1/SH 3 concurrency ends
Newbury 468 New Zealand PW-11 (left).svg SH 54 (Kairanga Bunnythorpe Road) – Feilding
Palmerston North City Ashhurst 488 New Zealand PW-44.svg Manawatu River
New Zealand PW-11 (right).svg SH 57 (Fitzherbert East Road) – Levin
Tararua District 495 New Zealand PW-44.svg Manawatu River
Woodville 500 New Zealand PW-11 (right).svg SH 2 north (Vogel Street) – Napier
SH 2 south (McLean Street) – Masterton, Wellington
SH 3 ends

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Communication Between Auckland And Taranaki.". New Zealand Herald. 1897-06-21. p. 5. Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  2. ^ "Through King Country On A Motor.". New Zealand Herald. 1905-04-05. p. 6. Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  3. ^ "King Country Roads.". Waikato Argus. 1910-01-18. p. 4. Retrieved 2016-05-28. 
  4. ^ Ron. "Mt Messenger Tunnel - SHW 3". Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Inflation calculator - Reserve Bank of New Zealand". Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Public Works Estimates.". Taranaki Daily News. 1919-10-25. p. 2. Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Works planned to trim back the inside walls of the Awakino Tunnel on State Highway 3 NZ Transport Agency". Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  8. ^ "Link With Taranaxi.". New Zealand Herald. 1923-03-31. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Main Roads". Evening Post. 1924-06-13. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  10. ^ a b "Road To Taranaki.". New Zealand Herald. 1925-05-07. p. 8. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  11. ^ "Better Roads". New Zealand Herald. 1936-10-19. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  12. ^ "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 2016-05-20. 
  13. ^ "Mokau River Bridge.". New Zealand Herald. 1925-07-06. p. 8. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  14. ^ a b "Mokau River Bridge.". New Zealand Herald. 1927-12-17. p. 12. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  15. ^ "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.". New Zealand Herald. 1927-10-17. p. 6. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  16. ^ "Mokau Bridge Opened.". Press. 1927-12-19. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  17. ^ "Mokau Bridge - Smithbridge". Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  18. ^ Duckett, Graeme (2013-11-09). "The story of the steamer Wetere". Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  19. ^ "New Plymouth To Wellington" Overland.". Taranaki Herald. 1871-08-02. p. 2. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  20. ^ Maetzig, Rob (12 March 2010). "Bypass ready to roll". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  21. ^ David Burroughs (16 October 2016). "Normanby overbridge bypass ready for use from Monday". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  22. ^ "Key's state of the nation - full speech". Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  23. ^ "Southern Links". 
  24. ^ "SH3/21 Intersection Improvement". Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  25. ^ "Taranaki key routes and investments". NZ Transport Agency. Retrieved 20 August 2016. 

External links[edit]