Step off it: Brakes applied to rural speed limits
Restrictions coming to Far North roads
The speed limit on more than 30 rural roads in the Far North is set to drop by 40km/h and a handful of roads will have their limits slashed by 60km/h.
The speed limit reductions are part of the nationwide “Road to Zero” road safety strategy.
Similar changes are underway in the Whanga¯rei and Kaipara districts.
In general, the new limits are 80km/h for sealed rural roads and 60km/h for unsealed roads, down from the existing 100km/h open road limit, with lower limits on narrow or windy roads and around schools.
Residents who made submissions about the plan have generally welcomed the new speed limits, though some say they don’t go far enough and others want the council to upgrade roads instead.
State highways aren’t included in the review – the NZ Transport Authority has been carrying out its own review of highway speeds – and the standard urban limit will remain at 50km/h.
With so many roads to be considered, the Far North District Council is focussing on one area at a time,¯starting with almost 70 roads in the OkaihauKaeo-Waimate area.
That includes important routes such as Wiroa Rd, where the limit will drop to 60km/h in the increasingly built-up stretch between SH10 and Kerikeri airport and 80km/h thereafter, instead of the current 80km/h and 100km/h. The limit on Waimate North Rd will drop from 100km/ h to a mix of 60km/h and 80km/h while Te Ahu Ahu Rd will go from 100km/h to 80km/h.
The plan drew 175 submissions when it went out for consultation in October.
Residents who spoke at the hearings included Keith Hawkins, who called for a lower limit on Waimate North Rd.
Hawkins said the road was gravel when he moved to the area in 2007 but since it was sealed about 10 years ago people had started using it as a route between Kerikeri and Kaikohe.
“Now they’ve found it’s sealed they race right through. If the limit is 100, people will try to go 100 . . . It’s a shame, it’s a very pretty road and very historic.”
Hawkins said several sections of the road were uncomfortable even at 80km/h so he welcomed the decision to set a split 80/60km/h limit.
The road, one of New Zealand’s oldest, was also used by pedestrians but had no footpaths and in places not even a shoulder, he said.
Wiremu Tane, a kaumatua at Oromahoe Marae, is calling for an even greater reduction on Porotu Rd, a no-exit road off SH10 where the limit will drop from 100km/h to 60km/h.
The road is due to be sealed, news that Tane welcomed, but that could bring its own problems.
“We have hoons speeding up and down our road at times. If we have people speeding now, with the corrugations and dust, imagine what they’ll do with seal.”
His chief concern was for the safety of children who walked along the road to Oromahoe School, as they had done for generations.
Tane called for a 50km/h limit with 30km/h outside the marae.
“I think 60 is still too fast. It’s human nature that 60 is actually 70,” he said.
The new limits were agreed at a council meeting on Thursday, which was held via Microsoft Teams and livestreamed to the public for the first time in the council’s history.
It is not yet clear when the new limits will come into force.
Contractors need to be engaged to install the new signs and Covid-19 restrictions may add delays.
The cost of replacing speed limit signs is estimated to be $190,000 to $300,000.
According to a council report, several submitters said the new limits would work only if they were properly enforced. Others worried that speeding fines had a disproportionate effect on low-income people.
Some called on the council to widen and improve roads instead of reducing speed limits.
One submitter called for German-style autobahns, which had no speed limit.
In response, council staff said better roads would be desirable but came at a significant cost.
Even with government subsidies, the council’s roading budget was limited.
Staff also noted that while the council set speed limits, police were responsible for enforcement.
Fines did not go to the council or to police, but ended up in a generalpurpose government fund.
The next areas in line for review are Kaitaia-Awaroa and KohukohuBroadwood because, according to the report, they have some of the highest-risk roads in the Far North.
That will be followed by Kerikeri-Waipapa, which includes the contentious Kapiro Rd, where residents have been campaigning for an 80km/h limit for years.
Councillor David Clendon said carrying out the speed review one area at a time would lead to anomalies.
The new speed limit on the Kerikeri end of Wiroa Rd would be 60km/h yet the more urbanised Kerikeri Rd would for now remain 80km/h, which could catch out unsuspecting drivers, he said.
Footpaths and other improvements will be added to Wiroa Rd at some point to make the 60km/h speed limit more selfexplanatory.
Deputy Mayor Ann Court successfully moved an amendment to have funding for those improvements considered in the next Regional Land Transport Plan.
The Whanga¯rei District Council is also reviewing its speed limits one area at a time.
It consulted on changes in the Marsden Pt-Waipu-Vinegar Hill areas last November. Whanga¯rei Heads will be next. Kaipara District Council’s plans to start speed limit reviews in the Mangawhai-Kaiwaka area have been delayed by Covid-19.
"I think 60 is still too fast. It’s human nature that 60 is actually 70." Wiremu Tane
Resident Keith Hawkins backs a decision to lower the speed limit on Waimate North Rd, saying it has become an access route between Kaikohe and Kerikeri since the road was sealed about 10 years ago.
The speed limit on most of Waimate North Rd will drop from 100km/h to 80km/h.