A speed spat is heating up in Wairarapa as local politicians clash over who can decide on speed limits.
South Wairarapa and Carterton councils are set to adopt revised speed limits, with a key council-controlled link road to stay at 100kph, while nearby SH2 is 80kph.
The combined effect of the council recommendations is to keep the councils’ link roads between South Wairarapa and Carterton at 100kph, while nearby SH2 is significantly slower.
Waka Kotahi’s decision to reduce SH2 to 80kph between Masterton and Featherston earlier this year did not align with public feedback and has been criticised across the political spectrum.
Wairarapa MP and Labour Party candidate Kieran McAnulty opposed the reduced speeds.
However, he is calling National’s promise to increase speeds “disingenuous”, saying it is Waka Kotahi that controls the speed change process, not politicians.
“This is the process working as it should – the council has considered the analysis, listened to the community, and acted accordingly. If only Waka Kotahi did the same,” McAnulty said.
“I have consistently opposed Waka Kotahi’s decision to reduce Featherston to Greytown to 80kph. I have repeatedly asked Waka Kotahi to review speed limits across the whole stretch once safety improvements have been completed.”
McAnulty said he has been upfront with the region and explained the process. “Waka Kotahi makes this decision, not ministers. For National to promise something they won’t have direct influence in changing is disingenuous at best.
“None of their proposed changes will work unless Waka Kotahi agrees to review the decision, which is exactly what I’ve been asking them to do as local MP for many months.
“I remain hopeful Waka Kotahi will see sense and review the speed limits after the completion of their work. That’s what I’ve asked for and am awaiting a response,” he said.
Wairarapa National Party candidate Mike Butterick has confirmed his party will work to undo blanket speed reductions.
“The councils are having to consult on speed limits as required by the Labour government’s Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022,” he said.
“We have announced that the National Party will undo blanket speed limit reductions as required under Labour’s ideological plan that fails to take into account the economic impact and rides roughshod over communities wishes.”
The move that Labour set in motion has negative impacts on the local economy, Butterick said.
“We need safer roads, not slower roads.”
A Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency spokesperson confirmed the process for reviewing and setting speed limits is in the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022.
“Councils are the road controlling authority for local roads within their boundaries, while Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is the road controlling authority for state highways,” they said.
The spokesperson said the regulations created an integrated speed management planning process to help get a safe transport system. The rule means authorities must follow this process in setting speed limits, including the development of speed management plans.
Waka Kotahi is responsible for setting new speed limits on state highways, and the lower speed limit on SH2 in Wairarapa reflected evidence it was a high-risk route, the spokesperson said.
“The recent changes to speed limits on SH2 between Masterton and Carterton have been made in line with the processes established by the Setting of Speed Limits Rule.
“SH2 between Masterton and Featherston was identified as a high-risk route due to the traffic volumes, travel speeds, roadside hazards [like power poles], and the number of intersections on the route,” they said.
There were 815 reported crashes on this section of state highway in the 10 years up to December 2022. This resulted in eight deaths and 51 serious injuries, the spokesperson said.
“The speed limit changes included reductions to limits in urban areas as well as open road sections.”
South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] voted on Wednesday to receive the draft Carterton and South Wairarapa interim speed management plan report, subject to a few changes.
A key amendment was to remove the proposed speed reductions for Ponatahi Rd [northwest of Johns Way just outside Martinborough to the boundary with Carterton district] and Riverside Rd from the interim plan. This aligns with recommendations from a Carterton District Council [CDC] subcommittee last week to retain speeds of 100kph on Ponatahi Rd, Kokotau Rd, and Carter’s line.
The interim speed management plan includes a raft of speed reductions.
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