31 Jan 2022

Napier-Taupō highway: Feedback sought on next steps over lower speed limits

7:55 pm on 31 January 2022

Residents and leaders in Hawke's Bay are making last-ditch attempts to stop lower speed limits on the highway between Napier and Taupō.

Napier-Taupō highway (State Highway 5)

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

They held a meeting with MPs and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) last week. The speed limit on most of the road is set to change from 100km/h to 80km/h from 18 February.

Local advocate Kiri Goodspeed was underwhelmed.

"The meeting on Friday was slightly disappointing from a community point of view," she said.

"There was nothing new or important to report back, in that NZTA appear to be immovable on their decision."

A petition, led by Goodspeed, asking Parliament to stop the speed limit change has over 4700 signatures.

But local MP and Cabinet minister Stuart Nash told Goodspeed it was an operational decision and there was little MPs could do.

"There are other mechanisms available to us," Goodspeed said.

"That would be a public inquiry, it would be an injunction in the High Court, a judicial review in the High Court and a formal complaint through NZTA and then on to the Ombudsman."

Waka Kotahi had a different take on the meeting. Its director of regional relationships for the central North Island Linda Stewart said it was "valuable to have that time to engage with community representatives, as well as ministers, MPs, iwi and Hastings District Council".

She would meet with stakeholders again in a couple of weeks, to discuss how they could improve the highway's safety.

"We're beginning that process now to get their feedback on what they think should happen on that corridor. That could be intersection improvements, it could be road widening, could be better line markings, wider centre lines, side barriers."

Hawke's Bay regional transport committee has scheduled an extraordinary meeting on Thursday.

Members include some regional councillors, mayors and Stewart.

Chair Martin Williams wanted the committee to come up with a strong position on the speed limit change.

"We're talking about a decision that affects the absolute lifeblood, you could even call it the aorta of our inter-regional transport network," he said.

State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupō has been described as an unforgiving and dangerous road.

The road is a key part of the inter-regional transport network, the regional transport committee chair says. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

He called for Hawke's Bay leaders to drive home their message to government.

"I think this region needs to stand up to Wellington and ensure that that corridor gets the attention it deserves and that this region deserves."

At the other end of the road, Taupō mayor David Trewavas said he backed Hawke's Bay leaders' anger over the decision, despite his council staff telling Waka Kotahi they supported the speed drop.

"Our biggest concern is for the business commercial operators ... they will take a bit longer to get to port, so I understand where they're coming from."

He said the council supported the reduction of speeds in certain areas, but not the whole highway.

A community meeting on the highway hold-up was set for next week in Napier, but it may be put off due to Covid-19.

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