Surprise - there's more of us on the road under level 2 than level 3.

But the number of vehicles on New Zealand roads since the country moved to a less restrictive alert level remains down on comparisons with last year, according to New Zealand Transport Agency data.

Daily traffic counts in the main centres recorded an increase in volumes on Thursday, the first day of level 2 - when Kiwis are allowed to travel beyond their own region, visit anyone outside their household and shops have reopened after seven weeks of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.

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In our largest city traffic was at 60 per cent compared to last year, but up 28 per cent when compared with the previous week - when level 3 remained in place.

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Other centres saw a sharper rise, most significantly in the South Island.

In Christchurch traffic was at 65 per cent of last year, but up 52 per cent on the previous week, while Dunedin traffic was at 64 per cent compared with last year and up 44 per cent on the week before.

Hamilton traffic was the closest to last year's figures, at 78 per cent, with a 35 per cent rise on the previous week. In Wellington traffic was 55 per cent of last year and up 40 per cent on last week.

The above increases last week are for light traffic. All main centres also saw an increase in heavy traffic last week - 10 per cent for Auckland and Hamilton, 20 per cent for Wellington, 5 per cent for Christchurch and 17 per cent for Dunedin.

Heavy traffic returning to New Zealand's motorways tonight, the eve of the first weekend of alert level 2.

The transport agency warned late this afternoon traffic volumes were starting to swell on Auckland's motorways, and asked people to allow for extra time.

Meanwhile, police also asked Kiwis to take extra care on the roads as the country made the transition to level 2 life.

Some drivers could be a little rusty after up to seven weeks of not driving, national road policing manager, Acting Superintendent Gini Welch, said.

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"We expect there will be a lot of people out and about this weekend, meeting with family and friends they haven't been able to see since before alert level 4. We know people will be keen to get a bit of normalcy back in their lives and head to their favourite cafe, the hairdresser, or visit malls with friends.

"We'll also have children returning to schools on Monday. So it's important we remember to take it easy on the roads this weekend and to slow down around schools next week."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website