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Seen but not heard

Waka Kotahi NZTA said public consultations were “not a vote” in response to an Official Information Act [OIA] request from a member of the public that sought to clarify why SH2 speed limits were reduced despite widespread public opposition.

The transport agency also revealed it ignored its own assessment of the appropriate speed limit between Greytown and Featherston for the sake of “consistency”.

Wairarapa resident Chris Rawson said he submitted the OIA request because he felt Waka Kotahi had not been transparent or forthcoming about how or why it reached its decision to reduce the open road sections between Masterton and Featherston from 100kmh to 80km.

Rawson asked Waka Kotahi what methodology it used to statistically evaluate public submissions when considering whether it should reduce the speed limits.

In its reply, Waka Kotahi said that it “did not apply a statistical weighting to public submissions”. “The consultation for proposed speed limit changes is not a vote; it is about seeking valuable local and community input so that we can consider wider factors and context in our decisions,” the transport agency said.

The consultation summary said that the general public and key stakeholders Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty and Wairarapa AA all opposed the open road speed limit reductions.

As part of the OIA response, Waka Kotahi released internal correspondence detailing how it should proceed after the speed review public consultation.

One of these documents noted Waka Kotahi would have a high risk of damaging its relationship with partners, stakeholders, and the public if it lowered the speed limits despite the public opposition.

It also said the agency would have a high risk of further opposition from key stakeholders and partners if there were a legal challenge to the speed review process.

On the other hand, it observed Waka Kotahi had an extreme risk of reputational damage if the speed limits remained at 100kmh on those stretches of road and somebody was killed or seriously injured in a crash where speed was a factor.

There was also concern expressed that should Wairarapa’s open road speed limits stay at 100kmh after they were assessed as not being safe and appropriate, this could potentially undermine the reduction of open road speed limits from 100kmh to 80kmh in Wellington and nationally, where it had also been assessed as appropriate to do so.

In the OIA response, Waka Kotahi revealed the technical assessment that led it to conclude 80kmh was the safe and appropriate speed for the open road sections between Masterton and Featherston.

The 80kmh speed limit was assessed as the safe and appropriate speed for Masterton – Carterton and Carterton – Greytown.

Waka Kotahi initially assessed 100kmh as a safe and appropriate speed for the stretch between Greytown and Featherston, but proposed it should be dropped to 80kmh anyway.

In an internal review form, it was noted the Greytown-to-Featherston section “would look similar” to the sections between the other towns and that “for consistency, consideration should be given to have an 80kmh limit on this portion of highway” as well.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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