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Pushed to the limit over lower SH2 speeds

Just-announced speed reductions on State Highway 2 have put Waka Kotahi NZTA on a collision course with public sentiment.

From January 27, it will be illegal for drivers to drive above 80kmh between Masterton and Featherston on SH2, with some stretches along the route reduced from 70kmh to 50kmh.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said Waka Kotahi NZTA was ignoring the real issues.

“These idiots think speed is the problem. Grow up. There were only two fatal crashes last year in Wairarapa where speed was the cause.”

Mark said the transport agency’s consultation process was a pointless exercise.

“They asked our thoughts on the proposal, and they ignored and dismissed them all.

“We gave Waka Kotahi a hiding last year because they weren’t listening. They keep saying it’s about safety. But when they had a choice to put money into widening the roads, straightening corners and putting up barriers, they reduce the speed limits because it costs less money.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly insisted there was nothing wrong with the current speed limit south of Greytown.

“The road between Featherston and Greytown is in excellent condition, there are no problems with visibility, and it has double lanes along the way.

“Over 1300 people provided feedback, and the majority of the feedback said ‘leave the speed limit alone’.

“We have been totally ignored on this matter, which is very unfortunate, as it discourages people from taking part in future government consultation exercises.”

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said he was not persuaded the changes would lead to fewer road crashes.

“While I understand the motivation behind the new restrictions, I am not absolutely convinced they will lead to any radical reduction in accident figures.

“Time will tell on that one, and hopefully Waka Kotahi will be open to reviewing their current strategy if it fails to have the anticipated impact.”

Associate Transport Minister and Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty is convinced the speed changes will reduce road deaths, however.

“I know proposals to reduce speed are frustrating for some, but I also know they reduce deaths on our road. Waka Kotahi has a balance to strike.

“The reductions are focused on areas in the state highway network around schools, marae, and towns – many of which have requested the reductions to improve the safety of their communities.

“It’s important to remember that speed management is not the only solution Waka Kotahi is using to lower the road toll,” McAnulty said. “Waka Kotahi is improving infrastructure, putting protection measures like median barriers and rumble strips in place, and are underway on one of the largest maintenance programmes this Summer.”

McAnulty’s position on the issue appears to have shifted since last year, when he told the Times-Age in February that he disagreed with inappropriate speed limits on state highways.

“My own view is that Waka Kotahi should pay close attention to the views of the community and set a speed limit that is appropriate,” he said at the time. “For example, I expressed my view to Waka Kotahi that SH2 between Featherston and Greytown should remain at 100kmh, but that is ultimately a decision for them.”

Wairarapa Motorsport legend Aaron Slight said the changes won’t make a difference to the road toll and would just cause more frustration.

“They’re going to slow the traffic down and make Wairarapa a less-desirable place to come to from Wellington because it will take so long. It’s going to make it harder for businesses, and it will be harder for businesspeople to get here.

“Fog cannons in the dairy don’t stop the guy from breaking in. Lowering the speed limit is the same – it doesn’t stop people from having crashes.”

Automobile Association Wairarapa chair Craig Bowyer said the reductions from 100kmh to 80kmh were ridiculous.

“That stretch between Greytown and Featherston has one corner. I mean, come on!

“The latest crash on that road, the driver was asleep at the wheel. To blame that speed limit feels farcical.

“Nothing changed from the consultation. It appears the decision was made long ago and the consultation was just an exercise in bureaucracy.”

Bowyer said Waka Kotahi had targeted the wrong areas.

“Most of the crashes in Wairarapa are not on the state highway.

“Personally, I believe the road needs to be built better, we need more driver education and more police on the road. I can’t remember the last time I saw an alcohol checkpoint.”

Echoing Slight, Bowyer said reducing the speed limit would cause driver frustration, leading to dangerous passing manoeuvres.

However, he approves of the reductions from 70 to 50kmh, especially in residential areas “north of Waingawa Bridge. There’s no reason to go 70 there”.

“Also, north of Featherston, that has been long overdue. These areas are residential, some are past schools.”

Connelly also gave the thumbs up for reductions outside schools during pickup and drop-off times.

“But the best news of all is that the whole of Featherston will now be covered by a 50kmh zone, except for the 40kmh zone in the centre of the town,” he said.

“Featherston has been wanting this for a very long time. I am relieved that it is finally happening.”

Mainfreight Masterton branch manager Shane McDougal said Waka Kotahi had ignored the public.

“They don’t seem to listen. It’s going to slow everything down.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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