Cultural, environmental focus to flax clearing

State Highway 99 north of Te Waewae Bay. Photo: NZTA
State Highway 99 north of Te Waewae Bay. Photo: NZTA

Work is set to begin to control flax growing along Southland highways, with cultural considerations an important focus.

Highways South, on behalf of the NZ Transport Agency, will remove harakeke (New Zealand flax) from "problematic areas" across the region's state highway network over the next few months.

The Southland state highway network has large pockets of flax located within the road reserve, some of which are encroaching into drainage channels and obscuring signs, edge markers and line marking.

This can be a safety hazard for road users and for local communities.

“We have learnt from previous experiences where insufficient consideration was given to the cultural importance of these plants, that the management of harakeke needs full community and iwi engagement,” says Justin Reid, maintenance contract manager for NZTA in Southland.

Highways South appreciates that harakeke holds a special significance for many in Southland and has worked hard with Te Ao Marama to find a solution which recognises this.

SH98 east of Lorneville. Photo: NZTA
SH98 east of Lorneville. Photo: NZTA
After consultation with Southland runanga and others, mature harakeke requiring removal will first be offered to local iwi for harvesting where it is safe to do so. 

Where possible, those mature plants which cannot be harvested safely will be mechanically removed and relocated to local farmers’ properties for the planting of shelterbelts or restoration and protection of waterways. 

Where re-use is not possible and for a small number of juvenile harakeke plants, in areas where local waterways will not be affected, these will be sprayed and allowed to compost.

“The first area where harakeke will be removed is SH99 from south of Riverton to north of Tuatapere with almost all of these plants being relocated to a farm in Orepuki.  The few remaining plants will be sprayed,” Mr Reid said.

Once the harakeke plants have been removed from SH99, areas on SH98 between Lorneville and Dacre, and SH96 between Winton and Mataura will be addressed. 

The programme will continue throughout May and be completed before the end of June.

• If you are a landowner who would like to repurpose some of these harakeke, please contact Highways South on (03) 211-1561 or by email on


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