Nearly 80 km of state highway between Napier and Taupo has had a speed reduction.
Friday saw speeds on State Highway 5’s winding section between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley drop from 100 km/hr to 80 km/hr.
The decision has long been a plan of Waka Kotahi – the national Transport Agency. Despite no deaths recorded on the road since late 2020, the transport agency says reducing speeds will “dramatically improve safety for everyone who uses this road.”
“Reducing unsafe speed limits is the most effective and immediate way we can improve safety,” NZTA’s Director of Regional Relationships Linda Stewart said.
The decision won’t sit well with everyone.
In January, an RNZ report says Hawke’s Bay locals and politicians rallied together to demand the government not change the speed limit. A petition against the change received nearly 5000 signatures.
Many are still unsatisfied with the new limits and a judicial review is in the pipeline to potentially revert the limit back to 100 km/hr.
NZTA says they considered any feedback about the proposed speed change before finalising a decision.
The 80 km/hr limit will be reviewed in 12 months.
“While many would like the 100 km/hr speed limit to remain, the evidence clearly shows that it is not safe for this section of road, even for the best drivers,” Stewart said.
“We recognise that some community leaders want further analysis to demonstrate that the lower speed limit is appropriate.
“We are committed to completing an evaluation of the change 12 months after the new speed limit has been in place, which will consider the safety, economic and social impacts of the 80 km/hr speed limit being introduced.”
In addition to dropping speed limits, NZTA says they will also consider investing in other safety features. These include potential shoulder widening, widening the centre lines and improvements to side barriers.
According to RNZ, regional police stopped speeding drivers on the highway on Friday. However, no one was ticketed.
“The odd car has been creeping over 100 and we’ve stopped a few cars this morning,” Sergeant Paul Ormerod said. “We haven’t issued any tickets today, but we have helped educate people on the change in speed limits.”