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Down the road of consultation

Last week, Masterton District Council [MDC] kicked off public consultation on, among other things, a draft speed management plan for the district.

This consultation is bound to be controversial as the council grapples with what will almost certainly be unpopular options to reduce speed on some of the rural backroads. Maybe, eventually, all of the backroads. Who knows?

Also, last week, my opinion piece called ‘Nightmare of a drive to Masterton’ seems to have hit a raw nerve across the region, with many thousands of online views in just the first few hours after it was posted.

Describing the ongoing terrible state of SH2 between Carterton and Masterton, the screams of pain from locals echoed through the comments at the bottom of the story.

It is obvious to me that most commenters think evil forces have unreasonably waved a magic wand across Wairarapa state highways, causing nothing but pain and havoc.

This comment from Micheal, was fairly representative:

“Kapiti coast gets 100kph dual carriage trans gully motorway all the way past Otaki, avoiding the bottleneck towns, and what do we get? The slowest Third-World road network on the planet forced through loooong 50kph now 40kph towns. We didn’t want this speed reduction change. NZTA admitted their consultants said 100kph was fine. So undemocratic,” Michael said.

MDC issued a statement about the roading consultation process last week that said the Speed Management Plan [SMP] for the district would help transition from the way speed limits were set in the past to a more flexible approach that takes into account local conditions and the surrounding environment.

The principles of the management plan would focus on reducing speeds near schools and marae and on high-risk roads.

People can comment on the approach proposed and suggest other roads where speeds should be reduced.

This consultation process will no doubt be watched with interest by many.

The speed reductions on SH2 are deeply unpopular, and reducing speed limits on the backroads will almost certainly be equally unpopular. There are important questions to be asked on what causes a road to be high risk. Is it the road itself, or is it the behaviour of a small number of high-risk road users?

As a regular user of the backroads, I find some of the behaviours unnerving. There’s nothing quite like a driver shining his headlights directly into your rearview mirror in the dark, in winter, as they tailgate and then overtake you at more than 130kph.

These drivers already regularly exceed the speed limits. I see it almost every single day. They don’t care about following the rules or endangering fellow road users. And yet, if the speeds on the backroads are reduced, it is the [mostly] compliant public who will struggle. Locals will have hours added to travel time every week; transport and other companies will need more staff to cover the extra time deliveries will take; and costs across the board will inevitably rise.

Meanwhile, I expect the speedsters will carry on speeding. What is a ‘high-risk road’? Will reduced speeds on the backroads actually make them safer, or just increase the pain for everyone?

1 COMMENT

  1. Some of the roads that have tree roots growing under them have become so rough to drive along I have replaced 3 headlight bulbs in one warrant of fitness period. NZTA needs to ensure road maintenance is suitable for modern vehicles. I hate to think what these rutted roads will do to high mass battery powered EVs

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