New Zealand / Transport

Speed limits reduction proposal wins local support, National Party criticisms

19:33 pm on 5 June 2019

Local leaders are backing reduced speed limits, and Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is rejecting the National Party's claims that reduced speed limits would put brakes on the economy.

A Transport Agency tool, Mega Maps, suggests the speed on some open roads should be dropped to 60km/h. Photo: RNZ

It follows the revelation from a New Zealand Transport Agency tool, Mega Maps, that the speed limit on 87 percent of roads is higher than what is deemed the safe travel speed.

It suggested the speed should be as low as 60km/h on some open roads, and 30km/h or 40km/h in cities.

Taupō has been one of the worst-hit regions for road deaths this year, with multiple road fatalities within days of each other.

Its mayor David Trewavas said he would welcome speed limits of 80km/h on rural roads.

"When you see - dare I say it - body bags lined up and emergency services, what they have to deal with - anything that can help, anything that can get through to people that you must reduce your speed."

Cities across the country have already reduced or are looking to reduce speed limits.

Auckland has just finished consultation on dropping inner city speed limits to 30km/h, and Wellington City Council is looking to do the same.

Auckland has just finished consultation on dropping inner city speed limits to 30km/h. Photo:

Hamilton has taken the lead and already cut its inner city speed limits to 30km/h. Its mayor Andrew King said instances of cars hitting pedestrians had fallen by about half in the CBD.

However, the National Party is opposed to a near universal reduction of speed limits on the grounds it would impact the economy.

According to the National Road Carriers Association, 95 percent of export fruit, 86 percent of export wool and 85 percent of export dairy products are carried by our trucks on the roads.

National's transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said the economy relied on the movement of freight so any slowing of speeds could cost the country.

"Having a strong productive economy enables us to invest in many other areas which helps improve the quality of life and wellbeing of New Zealand so before you make dramatic changes to speed limits right across the board you have to think these things very carefully through."

The government has given no indication whether it will reduce all speed limits, and it has rejected claims a slower network will make it less efficient.

Julie Ann Genter. Photo: RNZ

"We don't have more efficient roads when we have lots of fatal crashes on our roads - that slows down traffic as well so the idea that travelling at 10km/h faster, 20km/h faster on narrow, dangerous, windy roads is somehow better for the economy is completely ridiculous," Ms Genter said.

"Travel times aren't as affected by minor changes to the speed limit as they may think. I actually think that both the National Party and the Road Transport Forum are being incredibly irresponsible in this debate - both of them signed up to the speed management guide in 2016 and if they're really saying that hundreds of New Zealanders should continue to senselessly die and be seriously injured on our roads for no good reason, I think that would mean they're very out of touch with the majority of New Zealanders."

A new road safety strategy for 2020 onwards is due to be put out for public consultation, which may include lowering limits on some high risk roads.