Project Spotlight: Waitematā Harbour Connections

Waitematā Harbour Connections

new zealand, Waitemata Harbour Connections,


The Waitematā Harbour Connections is the proposed multi-modal transport corridor across the Waitematā Harbour in Auckland.

Currently, the Auckland Harbour Bridge provides the only direct ‘cross-harbour’ road link between Auckland’s city centre and the North Shore. However, as the population is increasing, the bridge is coming under increasing operational pressure, carrying over 184,000 vehicles per day. That’s why, a second harbour crossing is needed in the near future.

  • Two new three lane road tunnels (one in each direction) for vehicles between the central Auckland motorway junction and Akoranga on the North Shore. These are similar in concept to the Waterview tunnel.
  • The road tunnels will be each 5 to 6 km long. By way of comparison the twin 3-lane Waterview Tunnels are each 2.5km long.
  • 6.3km of new separated bus lanes on the Northern Busway between Akoranga and the city centre.
  • Reallocation of space on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge for the northern busway.
  • Walking and cycling paths from Westhaven to Constellation including the re-allocation of one of the lanes on the Auckland Harbour Bridge to cycling, with further advice sought on an elevated walking platform above the cycle lanes.
  • Under any phasing option the number of lanes available to cars, trucks, public transport, walking and cycling all increase above the status quo.
  • The raising of State Highway 1 between the existing harbour bridge and Akoranga to protect against increasing flooding and rising sea levels, potentially using tunnelled material.
  • Securing the land for the interconnection points south of the bridge, including to maximise use of the City Rail Link and the much needed North Western busway.
  • A separate new 21km light rail tunnel that links to the existing Auckland Light Rail corridor, and goes from Wynyard (east of the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge) to Albany, with stations at Belmont, Takapuna, Smales Farm, Glenfield, North Harbour and Albany West. This would be a separate project from the road tunnels, and would be built in stages (as the Auckland to Waikato Expressway has been).

Two new three lane road tunnels under the Waitematā Harbour, one going in each direction, and a separate light rail tunnel that will link to the existing Auckland Light Rail corridor is the proposed plan for a second Auckland harbour crossing, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Transport Minister David Parker announced today.

The twin road tunnels would not be contingent on the light rail tunnels, with phasing options for the road tunnels to be considered by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, including whether to build both tunnels at once or separately. In either case, additional busway, driving and cycling and walking capacity will be created at each stage.

Separately, a future light rail tunnel is proposed from the Wynyard Quarter, under the harbour east of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and on to six new stations on the North Shore. This too would be phased. Construction would not be expected to begin until after at least the first of the two road tunnels is completed.

“A second harbour crossing is needed as soon as possible, and construction is planned to start by the end of this decade and why we are proposing a phased approach, ensuring additional capacity is achieved after each stage,” says Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Transport Minister David Parker welcomed another key element of the preferred option, extending the Northern Busway across the bridge into the city centre.

“It is clear to me that the critical connections between the new tunnels, the Auckland Harbour Bridge, SH1 (south and north), SH16 (to the port and to the west), the City Rail Link, the Northern Busway, the much needed North Western busway, and any light rail options should be secured now,” says Transport Minister Chris Hipkins.

Click here to see the Waitematā Harbour Connections emerging preferred option map.

Click here to see the Waitematā Harbour Connections emerging preferred option cross section diagram.

About the Waitematā Harbour Connections project

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project in Auckland is one of New Zealand’s most significant city-shaping infrastructure projects. Depending on the scenario chosen, the new harbour crossing will likely be the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in New Zealand costing billions of dollars.

The procuring agencies involved in the Waitematā Harbour Connections project include Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council.

It is a multi-modal solution for people wanting to walk, bus, cycle, travel by light rail, drive, or transport freight across the Harbour, ultimately connecting people to accessible transportation across the North Island region.

Currently, the project is in the ‘detailed planning’ phase. A decision to proceed with the crossing has been brought forward so the newly constructed crossing can be integrated with the planned Auckland Light Rail.

This rapid transport network is a transformational and nationally significant project that will provide substantial local, regional and national benefits.

What is a rapid transport network?

A ‘rapid transport network’ is a high-capacity public transportation system designed to move large numbers of passengers within urban areas efficiently. It features tracks for trains or vehicles that operate fixed routes with frequent service.

Investing in these systems will ensure quicker travel times, high passenger capacity, fixed routes, separation from regular traffic, integration with other transportation modes, and reduced carbon emissions. Rapid transit also enables housing and business investment growth, which helps unlock and increase Auckland’s overall growth potential.

Why is the Waitematā Harbour Connections project required?

At least ten major studies have been conducted to plan to improve cross-harbour transport connections in the last 30 years.

The rapid growth of Auckland’s North Shore places tremendous pressure on the broader transport system. This ultimately affects State Highway 1 as it is the most significant road on the North Shore and is a leading network route for freight vehicles.

Auckland Harbour Bridge is also facing increasing operational pressure and will continue to grow with the population, unexpected incidents and disruptions. Currently, there are about 26,000 people that cross the Harbour Bridge southbound during the two-hour peak morning traffic. An 80% increase in trips across the Harbour will be forecasted by 2041.

Waitematā Harbour Connections will allow more transport choices and reduce the number of private vehicles on the road. This will contribute to reducing carbon emissions, reduced embodies carbon emissions, and meeting net zero emissions by 2050 set by the New Zealand Government.

There are numerous reasons why the current rail system is not being pursued for the North Shore area of Auckland. There would be limited structure potential, higher costs, and significantly more infrastructure to transform the area for heavy rail.

What the Waitematā Harbour Connections project will bring to the North Island of New Zealand

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will bring numerous benefits to the New Zealand region. It enhances accessibility and mobility for everyone living within the area and improves the reliability of public transportation. Below are a few benefits the Waitematā Harbour Connections project will bring to the North Island of New Zealand.


More transport choices and reduced reliance on private vehicles will help reach New Zealand’s commitment to zero emissions by 2050. The Waitematā Harbour Connections project aligns with the Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), which describes how the New Zealand Government will meet emissions budgets and progress towards meeting the achievement. This involves reducing carbon emissions, reduced embodies carbon emissions and specific ways to build resilience in the transport network.

There will also be improved air quality from vehicle emissions reduction and enhanced public transportation. This project will create a cleaner and healthier environment for individuals.

In recent years, the sea level rise has been affecting the section of the Northern Motorway from Esmonde Road to the bridge. Henceforth, improved existing infrastructure will help cater to increasing natural environmental events.

Urban development

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will recommend different ways to integrate transport improvements with land use and urban development outcomes. The suburban areas the project will pass through will develop into diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods. This indicates that the focused quality transport route will enable individuals living in Auckland to have a wide range of choices in housing, education, employment, and other services.

Economic growth

The improved connections will also promote economic growth and development by facilitating access to business districts, suburban areas, tourism destinations, and the surrounding regions. Also, the project will generate countless jobs during its construction phase, providing ongoing employment opportunities within the engineering and construction sector.

Resilient transport connections between regions in North Island

Reliable, efficient, and safe transport will provide better transportation between cities, regions, and projects. This will be particularly beneficial for freight transport as roads for freight currently relies heavily on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge. The Waitematā Harbour Connections will provide greater access between the Upper North Island regions.

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project positively impacts New Zealand’s quality of life, economy, and overall environment.

Waitematā Harbour Connections progress

Waitematā Harbour Connections is one of New Zealand’s biggest transport investments and is expected to have significant design and construction work when construction begins in 2029. Currently, the project is in the investigation and detailed planning stage.

Where are we now?

The project will investigate alternative options to provide light rail between the city centre and North Shore through the Harbour. This will connect with Auckland Light Rail, providing seamless travel options between Auckland Airport, suburban areas, and tourist spots to the North Shore.

Planning will be conducted across all Auckland rapid transit projects to ensure a fully integrated transport system for travellers. The indicative business case produced between 2018 and 2020 has been used and built on for the current planning.

Numerous organisations are producing the Indicated Business Case (IBS) that began in late 2022. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s partnership includes Auckland Transport, Ngā Iwi Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council and the alliance of four companies – WSP, Beca, SYSTRA and COX Architecture.

Alliance partners announced the progress of Waitematā Harbour Connections and Auckland Light Rail

All planning focuses on the transport modes required to cross the Harbour in the future, such as light rail, connections for people on foot, vehicles, freight, and the current Auckland Northern Busway. The alliance is also investigating whether new infrastructure is required, how it will go, and how to best use Auckland’s existing infrastructure. A recommended way to continue forward will be announced in late 2023, and the completed IBS will be released in early 2024.

There are numerous ongoing climate and environmental considerations procuring agencies will view when investigating options for new connections. One is to ensure that the Waitematā Harbour Connections project will help achieve the commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Another is to consider the rising sea levels affecting a section of the Northern Motorway to the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Options still need to be looked into for the future use of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. This is important as the future connectors’ form, function, and route across Waitematā Harbour must be considered.

2022Indicative Business Case (IBC) started and early engagement
2023The Indicative Business Case is building on previous work and exploring all modes of transport to reach a recommended way forward by late 2023.
2024Detailed Business Case and engagement with communities
2026Consenting, detailed design, and engagement with communities
2029Construction to commence

Auckland: Five scenarios for Waitematā Harbour Connections revealed

The Waitematā Harbour Connections project will change how travellers cross the Harbour and use the wider transport system around and through Auckland. A recommended way will be reached by late 2023 once Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s partnerships explore all modes of transport with special considerations taken into account.

Source: © 2023 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency | © Auckland Transport 2023

Source: Crown copyright

Image source: © 2023 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

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