Setting the right road speeds

Published on 15 July 2021

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From this week, we are asking residents and road users around Kaitāia, Broadwood, Moerewa and Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē / Ninety Mile Beach to provide us with feedback on new speed limits proposed for Council-administered roads in the district. The proposals are part of a region-wide review of road speeds being undertaken by Northland councils and are the second review for the Far North. We applied new speed limits in January this year to over 50 roads between Kāeo and Ōhaeawai. This work aligns with the Government’s Road to Zero national strategy to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads by 40 per cent over the next 10 years.

We are reviewing road speeds area by area with roads that have the highest risk of serious and fatal crashes reviewed first. Statistics show that roads around Awanui, north of Hokianga Harbour and Moerewa have a high rate of serious road crashes and we can help reduce those statistics by applying speed limits that better reflect the road environment. Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē / Ninety Mile Beach is a little different and is included to help implement the Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē Beach Management Plan for Ninety Mile Beach.

When considering the road environment, we must look at the road itself. Many Far North roads are unsealed, narrow and winding. Despite that, most have a default speed limit of 100km/h. While most modern vehicles are safer than those available when speed limits were set, they are often capable of much faster speeds. The other factor to consider – and one we need your help with – is who uses these roads. Our population has grown, and we have more community organisations, kura and businesses using the roads. We need to know about these so we can set speed limits that suit the road and its users.

During the last review, many people asked when the Council planned to seal the roads. It’s a fair question. Only 35% of our roads are currently sealed. Sealing all the remaining 2508km would place an unaffordable burden on ratepayers, although we are making progress on our highest priority roads that link a high number of homes, schools, marae and other public facilities. In 2021, we will seal another 23.3km of these roads with funding assistance from the Government, mostly through Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. However, to reduce the road toll, we must look at all options. We are installing more road engineering improvements, such as rumble strips and road barriers, and are working with communities on road layout changes to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. But our most effective tool is speed. Travelling too fast for the road conditions contributed to nearly a third of serious injury or fatal crashes in the Far North between 2016 and 2021. So, if you travel in the review areas, I urge you to provide feedback on the proposed speed limits. Please follow this link to our website to find a full list of roads under review and to make a submission. Feedback closes on 24 August.