A dangerous stretch of Northland highway has been identified as one of 10 hotspots around New Zealand that will come under tougher police scrutiny in an effort to reduce serious crashes.

Northland police say they have increased their presence and focus on the 19km section of State Highway 1 south of Whangārei to Marsden for the past 18 months.

A trucking industry spokesman said the industry supports the increased police focus but future proofing the highway was needed for the region.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has generated a list of 10 highways for police patrols to focus on, in an effort to reduce serious crashes, with the analysis taking into consideration historical crash data, traffic volumes, speed surveys and physical road characteristics.

The scene of a triple fatality on a notorious stretch of SH1 in Northland where police will increase their focus. Photo / File
The scene of a triple fatality on a notorious stretch of SH1 in Northland where police will increase their focus. Photo / File

Highway patrol Senior Sergeant Ian Row said police actively patrolled the dangerous section of highway with the resources available.

"In our weekly taskings, that specific piece of road has been a focus for the last 18 months. From our point of view, having regular, consistent enforcement there is a priority."

Speed camera vans were also being used in a bid to make the road safer and create better driver behaviour.

Row said having Northland highway was included in the top 10 sites in the country was no surprise and only confirmed what local police were well aware of.

"Police are out there to be seen and enforcement has a impact on people's driving."

John Bain, chairman of the Northland Regional Council's regional transport committee, said the committee was deeply concerned about fatal and serious crashes on the highway and the impact it had on families so an increased police focus was welcomed.

Bain said since the road had been built the population growth and traffic flow had increased and it was necessary to bring the stretch of road into the 21st century similar to improvements between Hamilton and Cambridge.

"We are on the side of the police but the road really needs to be upgraded."


National Road Carriers Association chief David Aitken said increasing the number of police patrolling the road was a good thing but a more permanent solution was needed to make the road safer.

"If you really want to make the road safer for future growth of the region then making a four-lane highway would really address those problems, attract more tourists and grow the Northland economy."

Portland Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Steven Wells supported any increased police presence in the area that prevented road trauma.

His brigade was frequently called to support Whangārei and Ruakaka brigades at fatal and serious road crashes and had been part of the emergency team called to a triple fatality last year.

On November 1 the notorious stretch of road claimed the lives of three people after a crash involving four vehicles.

Three people died in this four-car crash last November on the hotspot stretch of SH1. Photo / File
Three people died in this four-car crash last November on the hotspot stretch of SH1. Photo / File

Wells said the installation of the flexi fluoro poles on the road had definitely reduced the number of crashes the brigade had attended in the past three months.

"Those poles are doing their job and making people think about staying on their side of the road and not chancing risky passing moves. In the last three months those poles have turned things around."

NZTA director of safety Harry Wilson stressed the 10 highways were not necessarily the highways where the most crashes had occurred.

"This is not a list of the 'highest-risk' or 'most dangerous' sections of state highway, but rather the sections where, based on current evidence, targeted enforcement and other speed management measures will deliver the greatest overall safety benefits in terms of crash reduction and the prevention of deaths and serious injuries," Wilson said.

The 2018 road toll is 260 after 13 people died last week in a horror stretch. In Northland there have been 23 fatalities this year to date with nine occurring in the Far North, 12 in Whangārei and 2 in Kaipara.

At its present rate, this year's national toll will be the fifth consecutive year it has risen, and the highest overall toll since 2009.