Safety barriers on way for Nelson-Blenheim highway

6:47 am on 8 September 2021

Parts of the highway between Blenheim and Nelson will have safety barriers as part of a $289 million investment in the top of the south's transport, which could also see speeds dropped along a notorious stretch of Marlborough road.

Marlborough’s regional transport committee chairman Francis Maher at an intersection previously mooted for median barriers.

Marlborough's regional transport committee chairman Francis Maher at an intersection previously mooted for median barriers. Photo: LDR / Chloe Ranford

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has announced it will inject millions into Marlborough over the next three years in a bid to fix roads, reduce deaths and improve public transport. It's part of the agency's $24.3 billion programme for the next three years, announced on Tuesday.

Median - or safety - barriers were signalled as the next big safety project for State Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson, almost a year after its speed limits were slashed from 100kmh to as low as 60kmh.

The wire barriers reduce the risk of head on collisions, which were more likely to be fatal, helping the government reach its goal of having zero road deaths in New Zealand.

Waka Kotahi did not disclose where along the highway the barriers would be installed, but funding tables showed the project would take place before next July and cost $249,700.

Waka Kotahi also decided it would review speed limits along the twisting road separating Blenheim and Seddon after the region's transport committee complained the stretch had been overlooked for funding, again, despite years of appeals.

Eighteen fatal crashes had occurred on the road separating the two towns over the last 20 years, including four deaths last year. Ward man Damian Pollock, Seddon men Ross Wallace and Geoffrey Hough, and Blenheim man Lloyd Sydney Yorke died on the road within the space of a month.

Waka Kotahi labelled the review an investment "highlight".

Regional transport committee chair Francis Maher agreed, saying that section was "crying out for a speed reduction".

"It's a glaring road that needs to be dealt with, not just because of the fatalities, but because it's obviously a more nasty road as soon as you come out of Blenheim," he said.

Maher had previously said that vehicles had a "high probability" of plummeting off one part of the road, Weld Pass, in a crash, especially given the road's tight bends.

"There's no doubt that speed restrictions reduce the likelihood and severity of serious accidents and death."

He also supported Waka Kotahi's decision to put down wire barriers on SH6, especially at St Leonards Rd, an intersection along the road, where barriers had previously been mooted.

"That piece of road is only going to see more traffic in the coming years ... but, of course, there's an ample number of places between here and Nelson to put down those barriers."

Waka Kotahi told the regional transport committee last December that SH6's passing lanes were being reviewed, although there was no funding available to create changes.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said he welcomed "any spend" within the region, but especially ones that reduced the number of deaths and serious injuries on local roads.

"The Blenheim to Seddon project has been on books across the top of the south for a number of years and it's very heartening to see that it's going forward. But, the devil will be in the detail as to the actual amount that is set aside, and what actually falls out of the speed limit review," Leggett said.

"It will also be interesting to see the installation of median barriers used as a solution on State Highway 6. Obviously it's worked in other regions and keep traffic flows separated."

Waka Kotahi said of the $289 million investment announced for the top of the south on Tuesday, more than $212 million would go on maintaining local roads and state highways, with $31 million for improvements.


  • Speed review on SH1, Blenheim to Seddon
  • Speed review on SH63, Renwick to Maruia
  • Median barriers on SH6, Blenheim to Nelson
  • Support for the Whale Trail, between Picton to Kaikōura
  • Support for Picton's ferry terminal project, Picton
  • Train track re-railing, between Picton and Spring Creek
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