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Signs on state highways

If you are considering putting up an advertising sign or device alongside a state highway there are a number of factors to consider. You will need to talk to someone from your local NZTA office and/or local authority.

NZTA has the job of providing safe and efficient sate highways, which meet the needs of road users and communities.

Signs can have adverse effects on the safety and efficiency of highways if they are poorly located, distract drivers' attention or restrict visibility. Signs may also have an adverse effect on the environment. NZTA seeks to reduce such possible effects.

Advertising Sign or Device

An advertising sign or device is any sign, placard, handbill, writing, picture, painting, engraving, carving, blimp, laser display, tri-vision device or any other device for attracting the attention of passers-by.

This sign or device might be fixed to, incorporated in, or painted on any building, parked vehicle or trailer, post or any other structure.

This sign may be permanent or temporary.

State Highway Reserve Area

Includes the road and the roadside area - usually between fence lines. Advertising signs within the state highway reserve are controlled through the NZTA Signs on State Highways Bylaw 1987/3. This bylaw does not apply to areas within a 50km/h speed restriction unless the local authority has adopted the bylaw. Contact your local authority to check.

NZTA's Technical Requirements

The following technical requirements for signs on or adjacent to State Highways help NZTA provide and maintain safe and efficient highways for all road users:

The Sign Itself - The sign should

  • Have messages that are clear, concise and easily read, and assist drivers to locate entrances and activities on land adjacent to state highways
  • Have a minimum lettering height of:
    • 120mm where the speed limit is lower than 70km/h
    • 160mm where the speed limit is 70km/h or higher
  • Have a maximum of 8 words and/or symbols with a maximum of 40 characters
  • Use colour combinations for the background and legend that are not similar to any of those used for traffic signs as defined in the Traffic Regulations.
  • Not use reflective materials
  • Use no internal or external illumination
  • Not be variable, flashing, rotating or animated

 Location of the Sign - The sign shall

  • Be located on the site to which it relates
  • Be located so there is an unrestricted view to the motorist for a minimum distance of 180 metres where the speed limit is 70km/h or higher
  • Not be less than 100 metres from an official sign or traffic signal.
  • Not obscure driver visibility at accesses or intersections.
  • Be at right angles to the state highway and positioned to avoid vehicle headlight reflection.
  • Be placed to ensure there is only one advertising sign located on or adjacent to the property to which it relates.

Other Safety Requirements

  • The sign should be frangible (i.e. will give way on significant impact by a vehicle) when located within the state highway reserve.
  • NZTA strongly discourages the inclusion of detailed information on signs, e.g. prices, opening/closing times etc.

Tourist signs and motorist service signs

Please contact your local NZTA Office for further information

The following Land Transport Safety Authority technical publications can also be used when assessing the suitability of a sign:

  • RTS No 6 1993: Guidelines for Visibility at Driveways
  • RTS No 7 1993: Advertising Signs and Road Safety: Design and Location Guidelines


This information is not intended to cover all aspects of advertising signs, but is should answer many of your questions. For further details contact your nearest NZTA office.


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