Opposition to the recent speed reductions imposed by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency on SH2 received a rev up at a public meeting on Wednesday.
Held at the White Swan in Greytown and hosted by Business Wairarapa, the meeting featured presentations from Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett and National Party transport spokesperson Simeon Brown, followed by questions from the audience.
Both speakers called for the speed reductions to be reversed, as well as for significant upgrades to the road network.
Speaking on behalf of the trucking industry, Leggett, said Waka Kotahi has an “ideological, myopic obsession with reducing road speed”.
“We’ve got bureaucrats in Wellington dictating how productive communities behave,” he said.
Leggett pointed out 93 per cent of New Zealand freight is carried by trucks, and the speed changes add time and cost.
“New Zealand constantly undercooks its infrastructure,” he said.
“We really need investment in decent roads that will actually save lives, like a heavy vehicle road separated from the towns.”
Asked what National would do regarding the speed reductions, Brown said his party would consult with the community again. “We want to be the party of building infrastructure and getting things done,” he said.
“I think Wairarapa residents have been very clear in their opposition to the speed limit reductions. And so I think that’s one issue that needs to be reversed.”
National would investigate “sensible” improvements to SH2, including considering improving safety while ensuring people can get where they need to go in a “fast and efficient manner”.
Brown said the government is choosing to reduce speeds rather than maintain and improve the roading network, a strategy he called the “road to zero maintenance”.
Brown said a National Government would make Waka Kotahi accountable to the people they serve.
“New Zealanders deserve an efficient, safe, and reliable roading network.
“And 100kmh should be the standard speed on state highways.”
In its initial announcement of the speed reductions, Waka Kotahi said the new 80kmh speed limit on open roads will help prevent people from dying or being seriously injured if they crash.
There was “general opposition” to open road speed reductions, according to the transport agency’s consultation summary.
Waka Kotahi did not make any changes to its proposed safety improvements, despite receiving over 1000 submissions.
A Times-Age OIA request to Waka Kotahi revealed there were 554 crashes on the stretch of SH2 from Masterton to Featherston between January 2010 and August 2021.
Of the crashes, 371 did not result in any injuries, 146 resulted in minor injuries, 32 resulted in serious injuries, and five resulted in deaths. Travel speed contributed to just five of 37 serious or fatal crashes.