A series of crashes is causing delays tonight across the Auckland motorway network after thousands of holidaymakers fled the city for the first alert level 2 long weekend.

Two separate multi-vehicle crashes are causing delays on the Southwestern Motorway just after the southbound Hillsborough on-ramp.

NZTA is warning motorists to pass the scene with care and prepare for delays.

"Multiple incidents continue to affect the Akl Motorway network particularly on #SH20. Emergency services are working hard to quickly clear all incident."

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Another multi-car crash near the Auckland Harbour Bridge is also causing traffic delays.

Police said the crash happened southbound between Stafford Rd and Shelley Beach Rd about 6pm. One lane was blocked and two vehicles being towed from the scene.

Meanwhile, a motorist is in a critical condition after a three-vehicle crash at Māngere Bridge.

Police were called to reports of the crash on Mahunga Drive shortly before 4pm.

One of the vehicles had rolled.

The Serious Crash Unit is in attendance.

Mahunga Drive was closed between Rimu Rd Off ramp, and Walmsley Rd and diversions were in place. Motorists were warned to expect delays and avoid the area.

An earlier Harbour Bridge breakdown has now been cleared, but motorists could still expect a slow journey, NZTA tweeted at 4.10pm.

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Traffic was free-flowing on State Highway 1 north of Orewa around 3.30pm. Photo / Dean Purcell
Traffic was free-flowing on State Highway 1 north of Orewa around 3.30pm. Photo / Dean Purcell

New Zealanders were today encouraged to enjoy a "normal" holiday weekend - and they're doing just that. Traffic began building this afternoon as motorists headed off for Queen's Birthday Weekend.

NZTA tweeted just before 2.30pm that the afternoon peak had, as expected, kicked off early in Auckland. There were also issues north of Wellington.

"[There's] delays in all the usual PM peak spots. Heavy patches on #SH1 in Takanini, Greenlane and on #SH1 Northern Mwy. #SH20 heavy (southbound) in the Mangere area.

"#Drive2TheConditions as wet weather continues this afternoon."

Queues of traffic near the Johnstones Hill tunnels on State Highway 1 near Puhoi this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson
Queues of traffic near the Johnstones Hill tunnels on State Highway 1 near Puhoi this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson

Auckland motorist Ben Gibson also sent the Herald photos of queues in the northbound lanes of SH1 at the Johnstones Hill tunnels, near Puhoi, the main route to the holiday spots of North Auckland and Northland.

"It's starting to build," he told the Herald on his way from Auckland to Whananaki for the long weekend.

"Titirangi to Wellsford, it has taken two hours and five minutes. Slow spots were on the Northern Motorway ... around the bays, then Redvale, Johnstone Hill tunnel. Warkworth was pretty bad, and then coming into Wellsford. No accidents just busy.

"It isn't terrible, just typical day with traffic. Kaiwaka was clear as going through, and it seems to have thinned out after Wellsford."

Gibson later messaged the Herald just before 5pm to say he had again struck delays about 19km south of Whāngārei, where there are roadworks.

Slow-moving traffic on State Highway 1 south of Whāngārei late this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson
Slow-moving traffic on State Highway 1 south of Whāngārei late this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson

Northbound traffic out of Wellington also remained congested on SH1, NZTA warned at 5.25pm, but was easing between Waikanae Beach and Levin.

"Please continue to avoid the area or delay your journey, if possible."

And a truck breakdown was blocking the southbound lane of SH1 at Pukerua Bay near the intersection with Pa Rd. Motorists were warned to expect delays.

It's been a long time since the country celebrated a statutory holiday - Waitangi Day, which fell on a Thursday - not under the shadow of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, which restricted New Zealanders almost entirely to their homes, and then regions, for seven weeks.

It was a slow journey for northbound motorists at the Johnstones Hill tunnels on State Highway 1 near Puhoi this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson
It was a slow journey for northbound motorists at the Johnstones Hill tunnels on State Highway 1 near Puhoi this afternoon. Photo / Ben Gibson

Today, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, speaking after it was revealed New Zealand had recorded a seventh straight day of no new Covid-19 cases - and there was now just one active case in the country - said Queen's Birthday Weekend would feel much more like normal life for many.

Today, the limit on gatherings was increased from, in most cases, 10 to 100 people, although social distancing and contact tracing measures remain.

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