South Island Route Information

South Island Route Information


The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed that High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs) and overweight vehicles/loads (with a maximum height of 4.25m) which hold the relevant permits will be able to travel on State Highway 1 (SH1) between Picton and Christchurch from 15 December when the road reopens. There are restrictions on over-dimension vehicles or loads, which are stipulated here.

The initial hours of operation will be 7am until 8.30pm. Advice from NZTA is to allow plenty of extra time to undertake the journey and expect delays. In some areas speed restrictions will be down to 30km/h. The number of worksites will be reduced between 15 December and 7 January but will ramp up again after the school holidays. More information for freight operators can be found in the SH1 reopening FAQs here.

This page is the official hub to find out more about State Highway 1 and also the alternate Picton to Christchurch route via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass. It will be updated regularly as the December reopening date gets closer.

Up-to-date information on the earthquake response from NZTA is available here. Please also check this page for updates on road closures and traffic information in the area.

Lower speed limits on alternative Picton to Christchurch route

NZTA is advising people travelling on the alternative Picton to Christchurch route that speed limits have been lowered in some areas along state highways 7, 65, 6 and 63. Speed limits had been lowered to improve safety on sections where the road is windy and narrow for more than two kilometres. Speed limits will also be reduced at key intersections, particularly where there is an increase in right turning traffic, including heavy vehicles and campervans.

To improve safety for people living in communities along the alternative route, speed limits through all the townships and villages along the route will be a maximum of 60 km/h. Existing speed limits of 50km/h will not change.

New signage will be installed at all schools along the route to indicate a 40 km/h speed limit when children are present.

There will be also be more signage installed on difficult or unexpected curves.

  • Drivers should expect this journey to take on average 7.5 hours, however as there is currently four times the usual amount of traffic on this route, delays are possible.
  • This road is narrow in many places with fewer passing lanes than SH1. There is also likely to be a large number of drivers unfamiliar with the route, including tourist drivers.
  • All drivers using this alternate route need to be patient and show consideration for all other road users.
  • Fuel, food and toilet are available along this route at Culverden, Springs Junction, Murchison and St Arnaud.
  • The Police have advised that they will increase the number of patrols along this route and will be enforcing speed limits to ensure safety.
  • NZTA is looking at a range of short-term measures to help improve the journey time and safety along this route.
  • With a large number of aftershocks continuing to affect the area drivers should ensure they have the latest information, available here and here, email or call 0800 44 44 49 – 0800 4 highways

Freight specific information

  • All 50MAX vehicles and HPMVs that were permitted for SH1 are able to use the alternative route.
  • These vehicles can travel on SH7 to Springs Junction, on SH65 to Murchison and SH6 to Nelson or turn off at Kawatiri onto SH63 to Renwick, onto SH6 and into Rapaura Road (SH62) to join SH1 to Picton at Spring Creek. Freight vehicles are asked to not travel via SH6 through Woodbourne and into Blenheim to join SH1.
  • The Christchurch to Picton journey will take at least 3 hours longer so drivers need to ensure they are well rested before they start, take plenty of breaks and allow for the additional time when planning their schedule.
  • Drivers need to abide by their work-time and logbook requirements when using the alternative route.
  • NZTA are working through the implications of overweight and overdimension vehicles using this route and more information will be available in due course.
  • If you have any specific queries regarding route access, please contact the NZTA Permitting team on 0800 699 000 or email

Variations to work-time, rest-time rule

“We have had enquiries about variations to the work-time, rest-time rule for the alternative route. This is something we will assess on a case-by-case basis, and in very exceptional circumstances. Our primary concern will always be the safety of drivers and all road users,” NZTA National Manager Operations Kate Styles says.

“We want to make sure that commercial drivers who travel this challenging route are aware of the extra time they will be driving and are rested and refreshed. This road is now a vital lifeline for the South Island and we need to ensure that we do all we can to lower the risks for those using it, such as driver fatigue.”

The alternative route which involves State highways 7, 65, 6 and 63 adds at least 3 hours to a trip between Picton and Christchurch.

All motorists using the road need to be aware this is a narrow, windy route with fewer passing opportunities. The road is getting far more traffic than usual and all drivers need to be prepared for queues and potential delays.

“We have received un-solicited feedback from road users letting us know how courteous truck drivers on the route are being, which is really great to hear,” Mrs Styles says.

Commercial operators and drivers who want to be sent traffic updates for the route via text message are encouraged to email to be added to the distribution list for this service. Once signed up they will remain on the distribution list until the end of summer (Feb 2017).

All High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs) including 50MAX that were permitted for State highway 1 are able to use the alternative route. However there are some restrictions that are important to note:

  • HPMVs including 50MAX are not to use the short cut of Anglesea Street / Boyce Street, at Renwick to get between SH63 and SH6
  • HPMVs including 50MAX are not to travel via SH6 through Woodbourne and into Blenheim to join SH1

RTF: Safety-First for freight operators on SH7