National to spend at least $30m to reverse speed limit changes if elected

By and is republished with permission

National wants to spend at least $30 million to reverse speed limit reductions on state highways and around neighbourhood streets if elected.

Under the Labour Government, transport officials at Waka Kotahi have pushed ahead with plans to institute slower speed limits on state highways and local roads.

It meant many state highways could see speed limits reduced to 80km/h, whilst some local streets could be reduced from 50km/h to 30km/h — depending on location and decisions by local councils.

The changes have been endorsed by transport researchers and street safety advocates as effective measures to help reduce the number of Kiwis killed and injured on the roads.

But National’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said the Labour Government had “exposed its anti-car ideology” through the speed limits.

“National will repeal and replace the rules that set speed limits so that economic impacts – including travel times – and the views of road users and local communities count, alongside safety,” he said in a media release.

“All around the country, Labour has cut speeds on many highways from 100 km/h to 80 by ignoring economic impacts including travel times, and by giving insufficient weight to road users’ and local communities’ views.

Simeon Brown (file image).
Simeon Brown (file image). (Source: 1News)

“Under the guise of safety, Labour has exposed its anti-car ideology by slowing down New Zealanders going about their daily lives.”

Brown added: “We anticipate this resulting in highways going back to 100km/h speed limits, except where it would be unsafe to do so. Similarly, we’ll restore local roads to 50km/h from 30km/h, except where that would be unsafe.”

However, National would require variable speed limits around schools during pick-up and drop-off hours, according to Brown.

In March, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins backed down on plans for blanket changes to state highway speed limits — saying instead officials would focus on the “most dangerous” roads instead.

Speaking to media today, Hipkins claimed it appeared National was simply re-announcing what the Government’s stated position was.

Brown added that Waka Kotahi’s “Road To Zero” safety campaign had failed to reduce the road toll and that driver drug testing was more important.

“The reductions which were part of Labour’s expensive ‘Road to Zero’ road safety campaign, have not worked. The road toll was 350 in 2019 when ‘Road to Zero’ was introduced, and it rose to 374 last year,” he said.

“National will encourage police to increase the use of breath testing and we will fix roadside drug testing legislation so police can effectively test drivers for drugs.

Brown said National also wanted to raise the speed limits on some motorways to 110km/h.

Take an overhead look at the new Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway

“It makes no sense to have roads that can safely accommodate higher speed limits, only to require motorists to drive more slowly.”

Additionally, National said it wanted to “require contractors to minimise the use of temporary speed limit reductions at road maintenance sites at times when workers are off-site and risks to motorists are mitigated.”

In the party’s policy document, National said it would spend an “initial” $30 million to reverse the changes — which have already been consulted at a council level.

“National will ring-fence an initial $30 million over three years from the local road and state highway improvement and maintenance activity classes in the National Land Transport Fund to begin reversing Labour’s speed limit reductions,” the document read.

“Funding will be made available to local councils and NZTA to help cover the cost of lifting speed limits, including the purchase and installation of new signage and the removal of road markings indicating lower-than-standard speed limits.

“Funding will be prioritised for roads where previous consultation has already indicated a high level of opposition to reduced speed limits.”

Hipkins says National announcement not new

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has suggested National’s proposed changes aren’t all that new, saying that he had already announced changes to Waka Kotahi’s plans in March.

“I don’t think they got the memo. I made an announcement on this earlier in the year. We’re reducing that work down to just the top 1% of the most at-risk roads in New Zealand. That’s already happening,” he said.

Chris Hipkins speaks to media in September 2023.
Chris Hipkins speaks to media in September 2023. (Source: 1News)

“I understand they’ve announced, they want to increase the speed limit on Transmission Gully, for example — that’s already in process. Waka Kotahi are already working on that.

“I think it’s just packaging up stuff that’s already happening and trying to make it look like their own.”

When pressed if he thought road engineers had gone overboard on reductions, Hipkins said Waka Kotahi had made some “interesting” decisions.

“I think there are some stretches of roads where Waka Kotahi made some interesting decisions I didn’t necessarily agree with.”

He added: “Those decisions are made by Waka Kotahi.

“They’re not decisions made by the Government.”

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