Key Points:

Work on a new carpark at Cape Reinga is due to start next month, coinciding with sealing of the last unsealed northern section of State Highway 1.

The 19km road sealing project from the cape to Waitiki Landing will start alongside development of a new, 45-vehicle capacity carpark about 100m south of the existing lot.

The Department of Conservation says current visitor parking and toilet facilities at Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) are inappropriately located on an area sacred to Maori, Te Ara Wairua, the spirits' pathway.

Facilities are also inadequate for present volumes of traffic and visitors, around 400 people a day, more than 120,000 a year.

The new carpark and toilets soon to be built are part of a $6.5 million government-funded upgrade announced this year in recognition of the importance of the Cape Reinga site.

Damaged areas of earth will be "healed" and replanted with native trees. Earth from building the new carpark is to be deposited in old house sites adjacent to the existing carpark.

The new carpark is expected to be ready for use by the end of next month. It will be finished and sealed by the end of this year, while the old carpark to the north, due for sealing next year, can also be temporarily used during the peak summer months of December and January.

A temporary walkway will be built to allow pedestrian access to the cape.

The department's entire upgrading project on the site will take at least two years.

This work is completely separate from plans being developed by a project control group for a proposed multi-million dollar Visitor Centre to be built behind the current carpark.

Meanwhile, state highway authority Transit New Zealand and its contractor for the $14.5 million road sealing project, United Civil Construction, expect sealing work to take at least three years, depending on weather.

Sealing of the road will start at a roundabout between the two carparks at Cape Reinga and finish just north of Waitiki Landing at the highway's intersection with Te Hapua Rd.