Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway due to open this month pushed back to 2023

  • 06/05/2022
Pūhoi to Warkworth Ara Tūhono motorway not opening until next year.
Pūhoi to Warkworth Ara Tūhono motorway not opening until next year. Photo credit: Waka Kotahi

By Phil Pennington RNZ

Another major highway project is suffering significant delays, with the Pūhoi-to-Warkworth Ara Tūhono motorway not opening until next year.

The Pūhoi-to-Warkworth Ara Tūhono motorway - north of Auckland - had already been pushed back from late last year to a new opening date this month.

But the delay until 2023 was confirmed this afternoon by Waka Kotahi.

It did not give a specific date for when it aimed to open the 18.5km route, which picks up where the northern motorway out of Auckland ends.

A Waka Kotahi statement said it "cannot confirm an exact opening date" but its partners had "advised that the road will be completed next year which means the safer, more reliable and resilient route will now open in 2023".

Like the long-delayed and over-budget Transmission Gully motorway, Pūhoi is being built by a public-private partnership (PPP).

It was budgeted to cost almost $900 million. NZTA has not said if costs will over-run, or by how much.

The motorway is Spanish giant Acciona's first project in New Zealand.

The project's website said "work is progressing well", then added: "Because this is a PPP, road opening is determined by contractual agreements and obligations. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic response on these contractual matters, and in turn the programme of works, is currently being worked through with our partners".

The hold-up could have a domino-delay effect on the next stage, an extension of the highway from Warkworth to Wellsford.

Traffic had been expected to start using one of the two big viaducts (at Ōkahu inlet) on 23 May, before coming off on the new Pūhoi offramp back onto the existing SH1, project updates said, and north and southbound traffic was to move onto the new motorway on 13 June.

Safety concerns about the design and durability of the viaducts were raised by an engineering firm in 2020. NZTA said these were fully addressed.

The NX2 private-sector consortium is responsible for designing, building, maintaining and operating the motorway for up to 25 years.