Wellington Scoop

Was $800m, now $1.5b – Otaki to Levin highway gets go-ahead, Melling Interchange too

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has confirmed that the 24-kilometre highway from Ōtaki to north of Levin, originally costing more than $817 million, is to be built as planned. But it will now cost $1.5billion.

A report from Thomas Coughlan in the DomPost says Robertson made the announcement in a speech yesterday:

He confirmed that construction costs had risen due to Covid-19 but did not give details of where additional funding would come from or whether there was a change to the delivery schedule of the road, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2025.

In the NZ Herald, Georgina Campbell reported:

There had been some speculation the Government had mothballed the project but Robertson, who was guest speaker at an Electra Business Breakfast at Kāpiti’s Southward Car Museum today, cleared up the matter. “It is going to proceed.”

Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi said she had strongly advocated for the expressway to proceed during many meetings with ministers and officials. She was pleased “our voices have been heard.” … “I have driven on this road for many years and know the difference this is going to make. It is one of the most dangerous sections of road to drive in New Zealand – in the five years to 2017, there were 49 deaths and serious injuries along the route. Sadly, there were two more deaths on Wednesday.”

The project is opposed by the Greens’ Julie Anne Genter, who tweeted:

We don’t have time to spend the next decade and billions of dollars on over-specced highways. That money would make a much bigger difference to people, productivity and the climate if it was invested in Wellington’s regional rail network to ensure rapid, frequent train services.

The Government today announced that the Melling Interchange will also go ahead. It will cost $420m, which is $162m more than originally budgetted.

The new interchange project will remove the signal controlled intersection on State Highway 2, where there is daily congestion. It will also involve new flood protection for Lower Hutt.

Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry​ said flood protection was critical for Lower Hutt’s residents and businesses.


  1. Dave B, 3. June 2021, 21:54

    The most dangerous transport mode keeps killing people, so we keep on pouring major resources into it in a bid to make it only marginally safer, and meanwhile we ration-out investment in the safest mode so that things like a decent long-distance passenger rail network take forever to get established. What is Grant Robertson playing at? This is the sort of announcement we would expect from a National Government.
    Julie Anne Genter is right. We are still investing in the problem, not the solution.

  2. Campbell Barry, 4. June 2021, 9:33

    Funding for the Melling Interchange funding has been confirmed. The government has recommitted to funding the project in its entirety, despite cost increases from $258m to $420m, as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme. This is a really good outcome for our city.

  3. Dave B, 4. June 2021, 13:15

    $420 million in one dollop for a single interchange. So please, certain people, stop criticising $226 million for a network of cycleways over 10 years.

  4. Gizmo, 4. June 2021, 14:57

    Dave: I’m pretty sure that $420 million includes flood protection along the Hutt River as well as pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and even work on the train station. Anyway this is government funding not council funding, you can’t compare the $226 million purely for cycling, funded by already stretched ratepayers.

  5. Dave B, 4. June 2021, 15:19

    Hi Gizmo, yes I know all that. I was just trying to take a cheap shot at those who keep taking cheap shots at cycleways. Sorry to stoop so low!

  6. Tim Larkin, 4. June 2021, 20:32

    I had to look up how many zeros in one billion. Nine apparently. Might it be more interesting to gift every person in Wellington region a lekky bike? One billion would buy 333 thousand of them, ish.

  7. Julie Anne Genter, 5. June 2021, 9:12

    $1.5B for Otaki to north of Levin is somehow more than TG, despite being slightly shorter and not in a steep gully. It will cost literally as much as 40% of the residential property in Levin. And there’s rail right there. [via twitter]

  8. TrevorH, 5. June 2021, 9:32

    Julie Anne Genter: the current road between Otaki and Levin is a death-trap. And as we saw this week, when there is a serious accident (on this occasion sadly resulting in two deaths) SH1 is cut for many hours, with no possibility of a diversion except backtracking through the Wairarapa. Who knows, when the new road is completed Levin residential property values may experience a lift?

  9. Claire, 5. June 2021, 11:28

    Julie Anne Genter: does anyone imagine one day there will no cars driving up and down the Kapiti coast? No but hopefully soon they will be electric – this is the most important thing Labour and the Greens can achieve. Please hurry with incentives for petrol free cars.

  10. Glen Smith, 5. June 2021, 20:21

    Campbell Barry. I agree that Melling upgrade is good for Lower Hutt – for flood protection and to improve safety and road access to Lower Hutt. However road improvements without a balanced improvement in PT will simply encourage more people to use their cars and accelerate road congestion towards the projected 400% increase by 2041. I assume you don’t want a 400% in congestion for your city so could you confirm that you will be advocating for the dedicated Melling railway corridor to be extended at least across the river to the Lower Hutt CBD and preferably further north to service the western part of the southern Hutt Valley. The only immediate thing that needs to be done is that the new Melling Bridge includes a 3m wide dedicated rail corridor.

    A single dedicated rail line has the potential capacity of 8 lanes of traffic. Without high quality parallel PT corridors, road networks inevitably descend into a quagmire of congestion. Making road changes at Melling without realising the potential of the Melling line is a bit like a diamond mine extracting all the rock and diamonds, separating them and then throwing the diamonds away and keeping all the rock. The Melling line is the transport prize and not developing its potential is fundamentally stupid. I realise that the NZTA and GWRC are incapable of undertaking proper long term transport planning but I assume you are capable of more intelligent decision making than they are.

  11. Andy Mellon, 6. June 2021, 9:36

    Melling Line will get more cars off the road by being extended to Belmont/Kelson. Many more commuters up that way than in Central Hutt. Who’s going to be catching a train to Central Hutt? It’s a dead-zone and you’d have to change at Petone to get there from anywhere North of Ava. But yes, it would be great to extend the Melling Line rather than truncate it.

  12. Lindsay, 6. June 2021, 10:42

    I drove from Wellington to Lower Hutt yesterday and queued (in one of the SH2 traffic lanes, way before the dangerously inadequate turn-right lane) before being able to cross the Melling Bridge. Then Lower Hutt itself was at gridlock … all the roundabouts, all the main streets, everything was at a standstill. When the interchange brings more traffic into the city centre more quickly, what’s the plan?

  13. J Chris Horne, 6. June 2021, 14:47

    To proceed with constructing an Otaki-Levin highway and an interchange at Melling would be in direct contravention to Parliament’s ratification of the 2015 Paris Accord and the Zero Carbon Act 2018. Both projects, during construction, maintenance and use, would produce vast volumes of carbon dioxide – the gas causing runaway global climate change. Waka Kotahi / NZ Transport Agency and any politicians who support these projects simply cannot be on Planet Earth.

    Invest instead in upgrading the Waikanae-Palmerston North railway line, electrifying it, then running Matangi units and diesel-hauled trains on it. That’d be a fool-proof way to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads while reducing transport emissions.

  14. Kerry, 6. June 2021, 21:11

    Chris has got it right. What is the point of building new roads, when motor traffic needs to be carbon-zero by 2050, and much lower by 2040? The Climate Change Commission has done its sums, the Ministry of Transport has developed a policy and now it is time for action.
    Once motorists come to realise that gridlock is an inevitable outcome of using cars (pedestrians, cycles or buses all use road space much more effectively) they can start thinking about more realistic options.

  15. bsmith, 8. June 2021, 12:06

    Fantastic on both counts – get on with it, it’s what this region needs.