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Te Ara Kahikatea (Whakatu Arterial Link)

At the recent CCNZ Hawke's Bay regional awards, this project took out the excellence award in the category 'Projects over $3m'. Te Ara Kahikatea was the largest roading project in Hawke’s Bay since the Napier-Hastings expressway built in 2002. The objective of the 3.5km road was to enhance and improve the safety and efficiency of the transport network across the region.

Primary industry is the backbone of Hawke’s Bay economy, contributing $752 million a year to the region’s GDP and more than 11,400 jobs. In 2010 it was identified that a transport route from the growing fields to the main processing zone and onto export facilities (the port, airport and highways out of the region), was of paramount importance. It would provide a strategic link between SH2 North and Pakowhai Road linking horticultural production areas to export routes; particularly to the Port of Napier (New Zealand’s second largest port), Napier Airport, and State Highways leading out of the region.  Hastings District Council was to co-ordinate, plan and construct the project. This route, originally called the Whakatū Arterial Link (WAL) (now Te Ara Kahikatea), was considered to be the highest priority roading project in the region.

Higgins were awarded the project after a competitive tender process and our scope of works involved building two roundabouts and a 2.85km connecting road between them including:
• Complex traffic management to keep both SH2 and Pakowhai Road functioning
• Diversion and relocations of gas, 3 waters, electricity and telecommunications
• Environmental controls, including protection of the nearby Karamu Stream.

“The excellent work of Higgins and the role they played in collaborative relationships throughout the construction of this project meant  that it was delivered on budget and ahead of schedule.”
Craig Thew, Group Manager:
Asset Management, Hastings District Council

The cost of the road was $25.2m, and completed within budget. A contributing factor to this budget was Higgins pavement construction. In partnership with the Engineer and HDC, a thorough review of pavement and asphalt make up was undertaken immediately following tender award. This highlighted further opportunities for Higgins to provide more value engineering to HDC which provided increased pavement and surfacing life, reduced whole of life costs and improved value for money. Higgins suggested instead of bitumen stabilising at the peanut roundabout as per the design, we stabilise the basecourse layer and change the asphalt from AC14 to AC14 PMB. Doing this not only achieved a more robust pavement, but saved the client over $100K.

There were unusual constraints involved in this project. These included the orchards and the water bottling plant. Higgins had to find solutions to working around or during key periods of the blossoming and fruit picking seasons. The risk was of disrupting these operations including the potential for significant damage to the harvesting values of these orchards which are multi-million dollar operations. Other constraints included the significant iwi history within the area. The alignment went close and at times through old Maori settlements and burial areas. This site was of significant cultural relevance and controls and partnering with local iwi was key to being able to successfully operate within these spaces. 

The key opportunities for both of these risks was if we could do stakeholder management well we would be able to be effectively achieve our project goals and improve our relationships and HDC’s relationship with HB businesses and community. 

Realignment of the Karamu Stream was also challenging. We needed to make deep cuts in soft ground. Our methodologies were key to successful completion. Constructing pile casings and bridge abutments within the stream environment with a crew new to this type of work required significant planning and consideration of safety aspects with work being undertaken below the water level of the stream.