How slow can you go?

Further reductions to the speed limits on rural roads around Franklin will only serve to frustrate the vast majority of road users. But will Auckland Transport listen?

In 2019, Auckland Transport (AT) introduced a new speed limit bylaw and called for public submissions on the proposed changes. When I posted this news on my Facebook page, more than 53,000 people viewed the post. Many made submissions opposing the wholesale changes.

Did AT listen? No it did not. Over 200 roads within the Franklin District had their speed limits lowered last year. AT spent $1,050,000 in Franklin alone on changing the road signage, including new road signs and posts, line markings, lighting and coloured road surfacing.

Now AT is at it again. On 27 September it announced further changes to speed limits across Auckland which will come into effect next year. Some 208 rural roads are included, of which most are in Franklin.

The speed limit on almost every road that is not a main arterial road in areas like Ardmore, Drury and Bombay will be lowered to 60 kph. Roads that still have a 100 kph limit will be reduced to 80 kph, including Mill Road, the main route into Pukekohe from the east.

After the speed limit changes were made last year, the NZ Automobile Association (AA) surveyed its members and found that, for many people, the speed limit reductions simply didn’t make sense. The AA believes the best road safety result will be where speed limit reductions make common sense to motorists because they will naturally comply. If the limits don’t make sense, people will drive above the limit most of the time unless there is constant enforcement.

When the speed limit on a well-engineered and generally safe road is lowered, people become frustrated as they feel the change isn’t sensible.

I have significant concerns about the blanket approach to speed limits that AT is adopting – a concerned shared by the Franklin Local Board – and I am against speed limits being lowered beyond what appears to be sensible.

I would like to know if AT has recently surveyed people that live in the Franklin District, especially those that commute into south Auckland or the city, to find out how their travel times have changed in the last five years, what impact this has had on their daily lives. I wonder if anyone from AT is actually familiar with our roads and drives them on a regular basis.

I would like to know if AT has considered the effects of slowing traffic across the region and how this affects drivers: the extra time spent sitting in traffic, the longer commute, the frustration and the increased mental fatigue – all factors that reduce quality of life. Have they considered the effects on those drivers whose travel times equate directly to costs for businesses?

I have separately made official information requests to the Ministry of Transport to better understand where accidents have actually occurred. It seems that the likes of Awhitu Road, Waiuku Road, Highway 22, Mill Road, Glenbrook Road and Kingseat Road rank highly for the number of serious crashes, some fatal, over the last six years. I am awaiting further information on exactly where on these roads the accidents have happened and if there are particular ‘blackspots’ where accidents commonly occur.

In essence, if there are blackspots, why has AT not invested in safety improvements to prevent further accidents? Could the accident have been prevented by better signage, or an improved road surface? Was the driver under the influence of alcohol at the time? Were they distracted or affected by poor visibility? Were the occupants of the vehicle wearing seatbelts?

I would like to see crash data from AT that indicates whether the speed contributing to the deaths and serious injuries was within the speed limit – or, more likely, was it extreme speed, significantly higher than 100 kph, that was the cause? Driving at an excessive speed is usually a choice made by the driver, in which case lowering the speed limit won’t make any difference to these people and will only serve to frustrate the majority.

I would like to know what positive impacts have been made on our roads as a result of the lowered speed limits a year ago. Has the number of crashes reduced? Has the number of fatalities declined? It would appear not. According to Ministry of Transport figures, there have been 48 fatalities on Auckland roads this year to date (1 January to 30 September), compared to 21 fatalities in the same period last year – so the number of road fatalities has actually increased.

I have been submitting written Parliamentary questions to the Minister of Transport, Michael Wood, asking him to justify the decision-making around the roads being slowed. I am yet to see any responses, but will persevere to make sure that the decisions being made for our region are made with evidence, as opposed to blind-sighted guessing.

Now it’s time to have your say. Tell AT what you think. Feedback is open until 14 November 2021.

AT is planning two public open days in October. I hope the people responsible for making these plans will be on hand to justify their decisions. Currently these are planned for:

  • Saturday 23 October, 10am – 12.30pm Drury Hall, Main Hall, 10 Tui Street, Drury
  • Saturday 30 October & Saturday 6 November, 9am – 11.00am, Pukekohe markets.

You can see an interactive map of the proposed speed limit changes here and provide feedback directly on a particular road, or you can give general feedback on the proposed changes here.