National to Reverse Govt’s Speed Limit Reductions

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 29, 2023

The National Party is promising to reverse the Government’s speed limit reductions if elected next month.

Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said National will undo Labour’s “blanket speed limit reductions” and return many state highways to 100km/h and local roads to 50km/h.

“Under the guise of safety, Labour has exposed its anti-car ideology by slowing down New Zealanders going about their daily lives,” Brown said.

“New highways like Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway near Wellington were designed for vehicles to travel at 110km/h but Labour has mostly imposed a 100km/h speed limit. Both roads will rise to 110km/h under National,” he said.

Brown said it made “no sense” to have roads that can safely accommodate higher speed limits, only to require motorists to drive more slowly.

“All around the country, Labour has cut speeds on many highways from 100km/h to 80 by ignoring economic impacts including travel times, and by giving insufficient weight to road users’ and local communities’ views,” he said.

“National will repeal and replace the rules that set speed limits so that economic impacts – including travel times – and the views of road users and local communities count, alongside safety.”

Brown said reductions, which were part of Labour’s ‘Road to Zero’ road safety campaign, have not worked.

“The road toll was 350 in 2019 when ‘Road to Zero’ was introduced, and it rose to 374 last year,” he said.

National will also reduce the use of road cones and limit temporary speed restrictions where they are not justified.

“Temporary traffic management keeps roadside workers and motorists safe during construction or maintenance activities. However, excessive use of road cones and speed limit reductions – sometimes left in force when work is complete – simply slow traffic and frustrate drivers, without improving safety,” Brown said.

National will:

  • Change the rules for setting speed limits with the expectation of reversing Labour’s blanket speed restrictions on highways and local roads, except where it would be unsafe to do so.
  • Increase speed limits to 110km/h on the Kapiti Expressway and Transmission Gully, and on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway if a current review finds that would be safe.
  • Require contractors to minimise the use of temporary speed limit reductions at road maintenance sites at times when workers are off-site and risks to motorists are mitigated.
  • Require reduced variable speed limits around schools during pick up and drop off times.

Meanwhile, Transporting New Zealand is welcoming the debate on speed limit reductions.

Interim CEO Dom Kalasih said it is critical that government policy takes into consideration safety, environment and productivity, and a scientific, risk-based approach must be used rather than blanket limits on whole roads.

“The road network is the workplace of our members so as much as anyone we want a safe network. But variations and inconsistencies like this make no sense and in fact will make it very hard for drivers to have any idea what the speed limit actually is,” he said.

“We’ve heard it might cost $30 million to reverse what’s been done but on the flip side, with what’s happening now it could add 15 minutes to a transport operator’s daily travel time, particularly if operating on rural roads. As the charge-out rate for a truck and trailer unit could be about $200 an hour, the loss of productivity could be unnecessarily costing the country an additional $25 million every day with no equivalent gains in safety,” Kalasih said.

“We’ve been calling this problem out for a long time now and it’s great to see that there is now a solid political debate about road speeds as we believe we need a sensible rethink of this.”