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New Zealand Roads

We all rely on roads. Imagine life without well maintained roads.

There are many reasons why you need to travel:

  • going to and from school or work
  • for fun and leisure
  • for taking goods from one place to another.

You can choose to:

  • walk
  • cycle
  • use a motorcycle or car
  • use buses and trains.

Wherever you are going you will travel on one of New Zealand’s many roads.

Good roads are an important part of a modern society.  Our communities work better when it is easy for people to travel and when goods and services can be easily exchanged.

Roads are a community space. We ‘meet’ people on the roads at traffic lights, on the motorway and at roundabouts. Most of our interactions on the road help keep us safe as we travel.

History of roads

  • Many roads started out as just tracks that people used to get from place to place
  • The more popular tracks were used by people with their horses and other animals and so became larger
  • In New Zealand many of our roads were once Māori ara or pathways.

What is a road?

A road can be used for different purposes.

  • footpaths are for pedestrians
  • bridleways (or bridle paths) are for animals
  • carriageways are for wheeled vehicles

Types of roads in New Zealand

There are two types of roads in New Zealand;

  1. state highways (including motorways)
  2. local roads

1. State Highways

  • State highways are roads with a national purpose
  • They are used to move people and goods nationwide
  • State Highway 1 runs the entire length of New Zealand
  • State highways are managed by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)
  • The state highway network has almost 11,000 kilometres of road.

New Zealand’s state highway network is one of our most valuable assets. It is worth $23 billion. About $2.2 billion is spent each year on maintaining these roads.

2. Local roads

  • Local roads are used to move people and goods within regions
  • They are managed by local government
  • There are 83,000 kilometres of local roads throughout New Zealand.

Compared to other countries New Zealand has few people spread over a large area.  The length of road per person in New Zealand is one of the highest in the world.

Better roads can improve safety and save time and money. The development of roads is important for economic growth.

Improving roads

One important New Zealand road project is the Wellington Northern Corridor.

  • It includes 110km of four-lane expressway on State Highway One from Levin to Wellington Airport
  • It will improve safety and improve traffic flow.

Part of this project has been designed to allow a National War Memorial Park to be built in central Wellington.

  • A tunnel will create an underpass so that Memorial Park and the National War Memorial can be brought together
  • Currently Buckle Street runs through the middle of this area.


State Highway 1 runs the length of this country. This photo shows part of State Highway 1 in Auckland. Image: Public Domain.


Local roads are maintained by councils rather than NZTA. Image: LEARNZ.


Not all roads are of an equal standard. This is a gravel road by Lake Coleridge. Image: Public Domain.

Choose a road near your school. Find out about its history: who first created it, where did it get its name, why was it created?