List of tunnels in New Zealand

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North Head Tunnel System under the South Battery area, Devonport, Auckland, 2006

This is a link page for railway, road and waterway tunnels, including hydroelectric intakes and tailraces and gun battery tunnels. It includes artificial chambers but excludes New Zealand caves and New Zealand mines.

For hydroelectric usage[edit]

  • Manapouri Power Station - Machine hall 111 m long, 18 m wide, 34 m high, and road access tunnel 2040 m long, 6.7 m wide and high, with a semi-circular arch roof.
  • Manapouri Tailrace - 2 tunnels - original tailrace tunnel 9817 m long, 9.2 m diameter horseshoe section, commenced 1964, breakthrough 1968 drill-and-blast construction, 16 deaths. Second tailrace tunnel 9829 m long, 10.05 m diameter, circular section, commenced 1997, breakthrough 2001, commissioned April 2002, tunnel boring machine construction, 0 deaths.
  • Tongariro Power Scheme

For military usage[edit]

For air raid shelters[edit]

For transportation[edit]

Rail tunnels[edit]

Longest bored tunnels

From longest to shortest.

  1. Kaimai - 8879 m - opened 12 September 1978 - near Apata on the East Coast Main Trunk railway line to Tauranga, the longest rail tunnel in New Zealand.
  2. Rimutaka - 8798 m - opened 3 November 1955 - between Upper Hutt (Wellington) and Featherston (Wairarapa), replaced the Rimutaka Incline, a Fell mountain railway, the longest tunnel in New Zealand that carries regular passenger trains.
  3. Otira - 8566 m - opened 1923 - between Arthur's Pass and Otira, in the Southern Alps on the transalpine Midland line - continuous 1 in 33 grade - electrified until 1997.
  4. Tawa No 2 – 4324 m - opened 1935, goods on one line, 1937 all traffic - longest double-track tunnel in New Zealand. Between Ngauranga (Wellington) and Glenside (Tawa). With the Tawa No 1 Tunnel (1238 m), part of the Tawa Flat deviation.
  5. Tikiwhata - 2989 m - opened 1943, between Wairoa and Gisborne.
  6. Lyttelton - 2596 m - opened 9 December 1867,[1] between Heathcote Valley (Christchurch) and Lyttelton.
  7. Turakina - 2091 m - opened 1947, between Marton and Whanganui.
Shortest bored tunnels
  1. A 39.83 m long tunnel - opened 1906, between Staircase and Avoca, Midland Line.
  2. A 42.05 m long tunnel - opened 1891, near Woodville, in the Manawatu Gorge. - was daylighted in 2008
An EF electric locomotive on the North Island Main Trunk line, 2006
Other rail tunnels
Disused rail tunnels, North Island
  • Cruickshanks - opened 1 January 1878, between Mangaroa and Upper Hutt. Public access uncertain (see Valley Signals site for information)
  • Mangaroa - 152 m - opened 1 January 1878, at Tunnel Gully recreation area, Te Marua, Upper Hutt. Now a walkway.
  • Summit - 584 m, and three shorter tunnels, opened 12 October 1878 on the Rimutaka Incline. On the Rimutaka Rail Trail.
  • Okaihau - on the never-opened extension of the Okaihau Branch to Rangiahua, unused but can be walked through - easily spotted from SH1 passing Okaihau township.
  • Parnell Tunnel - single track, on the Newmarket Line, adjacent to the current double-track tunnel. Closed, with no public access.
  • Karangahake - 1100 m, in the Karangahake Gorge, on the former East Coast Main Trunk, closed in 1978. Now a combined walkway and cycle path (part of the Hauraki Rail Trail).
  • Porootarao - 1071 m, replaced by new tunnel on deviation in 1980.
  • No.8 tunnel bypassed in 1985 by the Mangaonoho Deviation of the North Island Main Trunk.
  • No.19 tunnel daylighted in 1972, on the section of line bypassed in 1985 by the Mangaonoho Deviation of the North Island Main Trunk.
  • No.15 tunnel bypassed in 1987 by the Ohakune-Horopito deviation of the North Island Main Trunk. Accessible from one end only.
  • No.11 tunnel south of Taihape bypassed in 1985 by a deviation of the North Island Main Trunk.
  • No.12 (Hedgehog) tunnel north of Taihape bypassed in 1985 by a deviation of the North Island Main Trunk. Adjacent to State Highway 1.
  • No.10A, 10B, 10C, 10D, 10E, 10F tunnels bypassed in 1981 by the Mangaweka Deviation of the North Island Main Trunk. All are on private land.
  • No.9 tunnel opened out (day-lighted)[2] at the west end of the Makohine Viaduct in 1984, on the North Island Main Trunk.
  • Four tunnels on the closed Moutohora Branch, ranging from 45 to 258 m long. One tunnel is accessible on a public walkway, the others can be viewed from public roads.
  • Historically one or more tunnels may have been built on the closed Ngatapa Branch but no trace exists today.
  • No 24 tunnel on the Palmerston North - Gisborne line - 123 m long (collapsed).
  • No 12 tunnel on the Wellington & Manawatu Railway (now Kapiti section of NIMT) between Paekakariki and Paraparaumu - abandoned in 1900.
  • No. 3, 4 and 5 tunnels on the Palmerston North Gisborne line were daylighted in 2007.
  • No.4 (Kai Iwi) tunnel on the Marton New Plymouth Line was bypassed in 2008.
Disused rail tunnels, South Island
  • Hunts Road - former Catlins River Branch, 221 m long. Public walkway access. This was the southernmost tunnel in New Zealand.
  • Glenham Branch, 301 m long. Possible public access. The second most southerly tunnel.
  • Spooners Range Tunnel - 1352 m long, on the closed Nelson Section. Accessible by public walkway, this is the longest disused rail tunnel in New Zealand.
  • Kawatiri Tunnel - 185 m long, on the closed Nelson Section. Accessible by public walkway.
  • No 4 Tunnel - south of Oaro township on the Main North Line. Access on foot south of township via a railway bridge.
  • Chasm Creek - former Seddonville Branch. Accessible by public walkway.
  • Charming Creek - former private coal railway. Accessible by public walkway.
  • Former coal tramways at Stockton and Denniston. Public access.
  • Cape Foulwind - former quarry line. Public access but tunnel has largely collapsed.
  • Rewanui Incline - two short tunnels now used by access road.
  • Puketeraki - 157 m long. Line deviated around in a cutting. Partly collapsed and ends have been fenced over. Abandoned about 1936 [3]
  • Sawyers Bay, Dunedin - 101 m long, line deviated through new tunnel. Status unknown. Appears to have been filled in at entrances.
  • Caversham, Tunnel History Dunedin - 865 m long, line deviated through new double-track tunnel. Public access to both ends but it is quite muddy. The access down the steps between intersections with Ensor Street and Townleys Road has been fenced off, but easy to get under, on the opposite side of the road to the Caversham entrance of the current tunnel).
  • Chain Hills (Wingatui) - 462 m long, line deviated through new double-track tunnel.Tunnel Images Tunnel gated shut both ends and on private land.
  • Three tunnels on the Otago Central Rail Trail (former Otago Central Railway), ranging in length from 152 to 229 m. All have public access.
  • Three tunnels on the former Roxburgh Branch ranging from 226 to 443 m. Tunnel No 1 is in public reserve, appears to be no access to others.
  • Rakis and Tapui Tunnels on the former Tokarahi Branch. Can be seen from roads, on private land.
  • Conical Hill - 71 m long, on the former Tapanui Branch. Public access through walkway.
  • Tunnel Hill Historic Reserve - between Balclutha to Owaka, 200 m long,[4] public access through walkway.
  • No.22 Tunnel on the Main North Line. Daylighted in 1981.
  • No.23 Tunnel on the Main North Line. Daylighted in 1979.

Road tunnels[edit]

Western portal of SH 1 Mount Victoria Tunnel, Wellington
Eastern portal of the Okau Tunnel, standing on the bridge
On State Highways
On other roads
  • Okaihau, a short tunnel north of Okaihau constructed for the Okaihau Branch railway, which is accessible to vehicles.

In rural Taranaki, all single lane:

  • Huinga Tunnel, near the village of the same name, provides access to an isolated valley.
  • Kiwi Road Tunnels: the eastern one on Kiwi Road, the western on Moki Road, near Uruti Road.
  • Makahu Tunnel on Brewer Road, providing access to the small village of Makahu (white hawk).
  • Matau Tunnel on Mangaoapa Road, connecting Matau and Douglas via Kiore.
  • Moki Stock Tunnel, hidden away in the bush to the east of the Kiwi Tunnels.
  • Okau Tunnel, approximately 100 m long, on the Tongaporutu-Ohura road 4 km from SH 3, which is unusual in that it abuts directly to a bridge.
  • Tangahoe Tunnel in South Taranaki - was re-opened in 1997.
  • Tarata Tunnel on Otaraoa Road, about 30 m long, built as the hill above was unstable.
  • Te Horo Stock Tunnel, near the Whitecliffs Walkway
  • Uruti Tunnel on Uruti Road, connecting the Pehu Valley with SH 3. It is both the longest (at about 200 m) and least stable tunnel in Taranaki. It took seven years to construct and opened in 1923. Signs at each end recommend not walking through it and stopping is prohibited. It looks like a mine shaft with its inverted V shaped top, has a wooden ceiling, and reinforcing planks along its walls.
  • Whangamomona Road Tunnels, two short tunnels, 4WD only

There are 3 other tunnels on tracks in the Taranaki area; Aukopae (closed), Graylings cattle tunnel, Waikawau beach tunnel.[6]

In Wellington:

  • Hataitai bus tunnel - 388 m long, single lane - under Mount Victoria; opened 1907 as a tram tunnel.
  • Karori Tunnel - 74 m long - between Kelburn and Karori; opened 1900.
  • Moa Point Tunnel - under the safety zone at the south end of Wellington International Airport's runway.
  • Mount Victoria Tunnel (see above; on state highway) 623 m long, opened 1931.
  • Northland Tunnel - 90 m long - between Northland and Karori, opened 1927.
  • Seatoun tunnel - 144 m long - between Strathmore and Seatoun, opened 1907.

Proposed or planned[edit]


  • Kaimai road tunnel - A tunnel through the Kaimai Range in order to provide a better roading connection between the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions has been proposed. One option for this tunnel includes building it near the existing Kaimai Rail Tunnel.[7]
  • Wainuiomata Tunnel, part of a proposed road link between the Hutt Valley, north of Wellington, and Wainuiomata. Eventually completed as a utility tunnel.


Mixed Use[edit]


  1. ^ "The Lyttelton Tunnel". Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  2. ^ New Zealand Railway & Tramway Atlas fourth Ed
  3. ^ Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Vol 70
  4. ^ "Clutha Country". 2009-04-18. Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2015-08-02. 
  5. ^ "Victoria Park Tunnel". 31 October 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "All Results in Taranaki Tunnels topics - Taranaki Tunnels - Kete New Plymouth". Retrieved 2016-05-16. 
  7. ^ "$2 billion Kaimai tunnel proposed". Bay of Plenty Times. 16 September 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2011.