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Speed plan slows to a snail’s pace

Councillors in South Wairarapa are frustrated that safety improvements to their roading network are in limbo while the government reframes the Land Transport rules.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] and Carterton District Council [CDC] consulted on a raft of changes last year for their joint Interim Speed Management Plan.

Among the changes agreed upon by South Wairarapa councillors was that all unsealed gravel roads would have a speed limit of 80kmh.

However, with the process halted while the Land Transport rules are changed, councillors voiced concerns at Wednesday’s Strategy Working Committee meeting that years of work, money spent, and community concerns listened to would be in vain if the council doesn’t progress with its speed plan.

Councillor Alistair Plimmer said it would be “a complete and utter waste of money, time, and effort if we don’t proceed”.

He also noted the proposed changes were “not dependent on government policy” but were safety improvements that made sense.

“I would just hate to see us go to all that effort over a number of years to shelve it because of a change of government,” Plimmer said.

“We did all this work, the community gave us all their feedback… What can we resurrect from that?”

Councillor Pip Maynard agreed.

“I just think it’s a shame we have put a whole lot of money into this and that we’re then saying we’ll hold and wait just in case something changes within the legislation.”

Council staff told elected members there was no easy solution.

If the council made proposed changes that were later contradictory to the Land Transport rules, there may be no legal standing for the changes.

Staff also advised that, given CDC has also pressed pause, it was better to have a “uniform approach” given the two district’s networks are closely linked.

Acting Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter suggested the council could write a letter to the Transport Minister “reminding them of the impact their decisions have” on local councils.

She said delaying proposed changes has an impact on community safety.

Councillor Colin Olds said the sensible thing to do was to wait until the council hears from central government what changes would impact roads managed by local government.

Although there seemed to be an appetite for the council to proceed with writing to the transport minister, or submitting their plan for approval despite potential changes, no decisions were made on either.

SWDC chief executive Janice Smith said she and operations manager Stefan Corbett would “work offline” on next steps.

Smith said the government had “made it clear they do not agree with the previous government’s land transport rule which is what we are trying to work within”.

“They have recommended to councils that we stop until they have revised that rule and issued a new one.”

She said although changes were likely to be centred around state highway speeds, councils were regardless “caught up in that process”.

“As Stefan has said, we can go ahead and try to implement some of this [the Interim Speed Management Plan], but it has no teeth until it is confirmed that what we have done is legal.

“It wouldn’t be prudent for council to continue to spend money on something that could be replaced by something else.”

-NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism
funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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