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Auckland speed limit changes too much, too fast

22 October 2019

Auckland Transport (AT) has not listened enough to public concerns over large-scale speed limit changes, and compliance with the new speed limits is likely to be poor, the AA believes.

The AT Board today pushed ahead with its speed limits bylaw, with only minor changes from the version it consulted the public on earlier in the year. The bylaw will create a blanket 30km/h zone for the Auckland CBD (excluding Hobson, Nelson and Fanshawe Streets, which will be reduced to 40km/h), and widespread reductions in town centres and rural areas. The changes take effect from the middle of next year.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine says that public feedback has consistently shown that a large proportion of people have not bought into AT’s vision.

“AA Members and all Aucklanders support the idea of reduced speeds on high-risk roads, but the big-bang, blanket reductions that AT is proposing are too much, too fast.”

AT’s consultation on its original proposal revealed that, of 6000 respondents that expressed a general view, 57% were opposed, while 43% were supportive.

Meanwhile, in a survey of Auckland AA Members late last year, 62% of the 14,000 respondents opposed the idea of a blanket 30km/h speed zone in the CBD, while only 16% supported it (the rest were in two minds). A separate survey of AA Members in rural Auckland found that 46% were opposed to the speed limit changes AT had proposed in their area, while 32% were in favour (21% were in two minds).

“The theme that comes through really clearly is that people don’t think the changes make sense. If people don’t see a speed limit as credible, they are unlikely to stick to it; and where compliance is low, you don’t get the safety benefits – all you get is higher numbers of infringements. That all adds up to a really poor road safety outcome.”

Given the submission responses, AT should have been much more prepared to moderate its approach, says Mr Irvine.

AT has taken a small step back from its original proposal by opting for 40km/h speed limits on Hobson, Nelson and Fanshawe Streets (rather than 30km/h), but the AA believes it needed to go further.

“At least as a starting point, we called for a 40km/h speed zone in the CBD, which is what the Transport Agency has recommended as the safe and appropriate speed for most CBD streets. We’d also like to see Hobson, Nelson and Fanshawe Streets remain at 50km/h, providing engineering work was done to make them safer. That approach would’ve secured far more public support, while still improving safety.”

Mr Irvine says there’s also a big group of 100km/h rural roads that are going to be brought down to 60km/h or even 40km/h.

“Many of these should be brought down to 80km/h instead. Again, that lines up with Transport Agency recommendations. It also avoids a situation where people are suddenly at risk of losing their licence – because of de-merit points – if they’re caught driving at speeds that were previously considered perfectly safe.”

Mr Irvine says it raises a lot of questions about the approach AT takes to consultation.

“Why bother consulting the public if you aren’t ready to respond to the feedback in a meaningful way? It’s no wonder there’s so much talk at the moment about a lack of accountability and public responsiveness at AT.”

Mr Irvine adds that what’s playing out in Auckland mirrors what’s happening with speed limit changes in other parts of the country.

“Our political leaders have promised that this isn’t about making blanket speed limit changes, but all too often that’s exactly what we’re seeing, with transport authorities often ignoring feedback from the public if it doesn’t fit with what they want to do.”


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