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Who will add common sense?

As we progress towards the election, I’m sure many people are wondering which candidate and party will most likely bring back a 100kmh on SH2.

Wairarapa’s two front-runner candidates, Labour incumbent Kieran McAnulty and National challenger Mike Butterick, both emphasised their opposition to the 80kmh limits when I asked them about transport policy last week,

But that got me thinking about a local MP’s limited power and what would really need to happen for common sense to prevail.

Waka Kotahi NZTA has made its decision; the new limit has been signed into law.

The agency said in March that it would not bring back the 100kmh limit unless the corridor’s environment “significantly changed” or if the 80kmh speed limit was no longer considered safe or appropriate.

As the Times-Age demonstrated in March, while the SH2 section between Masterton and Carterton was quite dangerous and needed those roundabouts, it was a different story south of Carterton.

Between Carterton and Greytown, three people have died since 2000.

One motorist died after he was rear-ended while turning onto a side road, another died in a crash involving drugs or alcohol, and one motorcyclist was killed by a trailer that jackknifed into the oncoming lane after its driver hit a guardrail.

Between Greytown and Featherston, two people died since 2000.

One motorist was killed in a head-on collision with a fatigued truck driver who crossed the centreline after falling asleep at the wheel, and another person died after crashing into the protruding trailer of a flat deck truck that stalled while turning onto a side road.

It’s hard to say whether an 80kmh speed limit would have prevented any of these five tragic deaths in the last two decades, but I would be surprised, even with a lower limit, if there were no fatal crashes on the stretch in the decades to come.

So, what would convince Waka Kotahi that it is safe to return the highway to 100kmh?

Butterick said National would make the changes needed to restore the old speed limit.

National’s Simeon Brown has often said that the government should prioritise maintaining highways to a high standard rather than blanket speed reductions.

National plans to fund this increased maintenance with a $24 billion transport policy which it will somehow pay for without increasing petrol tax.

But Waka Kotahi has operational independence – speed limit changes are not Ministerial decisions.

Ministers can set governance rules for future decisions, but overturning previous ones is a more complex matter.

McAnulty found that out the hard way when he, even as associate transport minister, could not tell Waka Kotahi how to set a specific speed limit in Wairarapa.

McAnulty said last week that his party would invest $20.8 billion in roads [smaller than National’s and funded in part by a 12-cent increase to petrol tax], which would give Waka Kotahi NZTA more money to improve state highways.

His logic is that if Waka Kotahi has more money, it could physically improve the highway with a wire median barrier or Armco side barriers, allowing it to return to the old speed limit safely.

Whoever ends up in government, their skill in interacting with Waka Kotahi will determine if they can deliver on bringing back common sense speeds to our region.


  1. Will most new Zealanders would know its the government thats in power and there polices that government departments must adhere to. So we have labour and greens 🤔 in power? Change government and get rid of this nanny state 🙄 😒.

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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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