The region’s councils are pumping the brakes on implementing new, lower speed limits in response to Minister of Transport Simeon Brown’s announcement there will be changes to speed limit rules as part of the new government’s “commitment to stop blanket speed limit reductions”.
“Speed limits have been reduced using a blanket approach across many parts of the country under the previous government’s Land Transport Rule, ignoring economic impacts and the views of road users and local communities,” Brown said when announcing the change.
The pending changes will “remove mandatory requirements for Road Controlling Authorities to implement speed management plans and remove deadlines for local Road Controlling Authorities to submit these plans by March 29, 2024”, Brown said.
In addition to safety, the setting of new speed limits will now include economic impacts and travel times – and the views of road users must be considered.
“The new Rule will also implement variable speed limits on roads approaching schools during pick up and drop off times, rather than permanent reductions, to keep young New Zealanders safe when they are arriving at or leaving school,” Brown said. “I am writing to Road Controlling Authorities throughout the country to notify them of the changes and to advise them that work has begun on the new Rule. This allows them to stop work on current speed management plans until the Rule is put in place.”
Wairarapa’s three councils play the role of Road Controlling Authorities in their respective districts and are therefore responsible for the implementation of speed limits on all roads other than SH2, which falls under the jurisdiction of NZ Transport Agency [formerly Waka Kotahi, previously the NZ Transport Agency].
All three councils have confirmed they are stopping the work they began under the previous government as a result of Brown’s announcement.
“Following the information received from the Director of Land Transport, South Wairarapa District Council will pause our process while we wait for more detail on the new rules which are expected in early 2024,” a South Wairarapa District Council spokesperson told the Times-Age.
Likewise, a Carterton District Council [CDC] spokesperson confirmed the council will “pause the submission of the Speed Management Plan to the Director of Land Transport. The approval of the director is the next step in the process of introducing new speed limits. We will continue with the process once we receive more guidance from the Minister of Transport.
“Carterton District Council, working with our neighbouring councils, the Wairarapa Road Safety Council, and partners in central and regional government, remains committed to road safety and keeping the community safe on our roading network,” the spokesperson said.
Masterton District Council [MDC] roading services manager Kaine Jaquiery was also at pains to note that MDC also “remains committed to ensuring the safety of our community members on the roads” and said that the council’s “current approach to speed is guided by our certified Speed Management Plan, endorsed by the Director of Land Transport, which prioritises measures such as reducing speeds around schools”.
“All certified speed limits from plans maintain their legal validity, allowing for the ongoing implementation of these safety measures in accordance with our established plan,” Jaquiery said.
“In light of recent developments … our intention is to closely observe the evolution of the new Rule before making any adjustments on roads identified as high risk in our Speed Management Plan.”