4 Feb 2022

Lower speed limit on SH5: Waka Kotahi asked to justify decision

10:17 am on 4 February 2022

Regional leaders in Hawke's Bay have decided to oppose the decision to drop the speed limit on the highway between Napier and Taupō.

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The regional transport committee wants to see detailed analysis from Waka Kotahi on the case for reducing the speed limit on the Napier-Taupō highway. Photo: Supplied / Hawke’s Bay Regional Council

Mayors, councillors from around the region, Waka Kotahi, police and concerned residents met at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council chambers in Napier this afternoon, during a meeting of the regional transport committee.

The committee consists of some regional councillors, mayors, councillors and a Waka Kotahi representative.

Advisory members include a representative of the regional council's Māori committee, police, AA and the Road Transport Association.

It is planned that the speed limit will drop to 80 kilometres an hour on 18 February, and that has caused a significant public backlash.

Te Pohue community representative Kiri Goodspeed, who organised a parliamentary petition with over 6000 signatures, spoke at the meeting.

She was "passionately incensed" by Waka Kotahi's decision, and the community feared the number of accidents would actually increase.

"The relationship you are managing is already fragile, please I beg you, do not smash it on the rocks of your own intractability," she told Waka Kotahi.

Waka Kotahi's regional relationship manager for the central North Island Linda Stewart argued speed reduction was an international trend and New Zealand had to follow suit to keep people from dying.

"The evidence and the wealth of research and public opinion are often at odds. Speed makes a major difference.

"We need those in leadership positions like you to value human life, and to value it more highly than anyone's desire to drive at a random historically set speed."

She admitted iwi consultation was not good enough - her staff emailed, did not receive a reply and did not follow up.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council Māori committee spokesperson Api Robin spoke against Waka Kotahi's desire to lower the speed limit, especially with the increase in the number of logging trucks on the road.

Eastern police road policing manager Inspector Matt Broderick endorsed the work of Waka Kotahi to lower the speed limit.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said Waka Kotahi had "failed" at many stages of the process.

"It is [of] great concern to our region that this section of State Highway 5 continues to be undervalued, that Waka Kotahi has not followed its own processes and guidance while coming to this speed limit decision."

In the vote, all members of the committee voted to oppose it, except Stewart from Waka Kotahi, who abstained.

Napier-Taupō highway (State Highway 5)

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Focus 'solely through speed lens'

In a statement after the meeting, the committee said the issues would not be solved solely through a reduction in speed.

"Auckland gets the holiday highways and a $16 billion light rail project, Wellington (nearly) gets Transmission Gully, Waikato has the bypass, Bay of Plenty has the Eastern Arterial, Manawatū gets a gorge replacement. We get nothing but a speed reduction.

"We find there is a lack of strategic management of SH5, and the focus has been solely through the speed lens, without taking adequate consideration of the flow-on and broader social and economic effects.

"We appreciate that Waka Kotahi is in a difficult position here. It is under direction from the government to reduce death and serious injuries without adequate resource backing from the Crown and that is where the battle lies.

"The question we are discussing is not about safety but about method. If this is meant to be a whole of system approach, then this approach is lacking. We as a region deserve better."

It requested that Waka Kotahi present detailed technical reports underlying its decision to lower the speed limit, including details of the process undertaken and criteria for analysis of submissions, to the next scheduled meeting in March and undertake a review of its decision.

The committee could take legal action against the decision, and seek to have it set aside.

The committee also requested that Waka Kotahi committed to a business case to improve the highway.

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

State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupō has been described as an unforgiving and dangerous road. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

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