School celebrates lower speed limits

By Sandra Conchie

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The Oropi School community has finally convinced authorities to drop the speed limit near the school from 70km/h to 50km/h after a 12-year battle.

It is one of a number of speed-limit reductions on eight locations on Western Bay roads which became law on August 1 as part of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's review of its speed-limits bylaw.

The speed reduction near Oropi School could not come soon enough for its principal, Andrew King, and two of his students, 12-year-olds Becky Rickard and Lucy Rowlands.

Mr King said the school community had been asking for council to reduce the speed near the school since 2001.

"There has been a lot of near misses in that time and lots of heavy trucks travelling this road going to and from the quarry. It's a huge relief to finally see it happen. They say good things come to those who wait," he said.

Mr King said council had also agreed to pay for new footpath so the students would not have to walk on the roadside when they visit Oropi Hall.

Pupils Becky Rickard and Lucy Rowlands said the stretch of road was "really dangerous", especially at the corner of the Oropi Rd and Gammon Mill Rd intersection, when students and parents were crossing.

"When we are walking to and from the school hall for our social practices, our teachers often shout out 'car, car', to warn us when one is coming too fast," Becky said .

The speed limit has been reduced from 70km/h to 50km/h on Oropi Rd, from a point of 310m north of Oropi Gorge Rd to 290m south of Gamman Mill Rd.

Only one minor crash had been recorded on the section of Oropi Rd.

Council transportation manager Alex Finn said the reduced speed limit was more appropriate for the village, and provided a safer environment. Other changes included reducing the speed limit to 60km/h past Whakamarama School - that is, between 300m to 800m south of Ross Rd.

There have been 10 recorded crashes on Whakamarama Rd in the past five years, nine of them in a section between Old Highway and the school.

Whakamarama Rd residents Peter and Merle Bray said they had been asking for the speed reduction on their road for at least a decade.

"This stretch of road is used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers, and when people ignore the speed limit it can be quite hair-raising at times," Mrs Bray said.

She and her husband hoped police would work hard to enforce the new speed rules.

Mr Finn said the speed-limit changes were undertaken after consultation with the public, police, NZ Transport Agency, NZ Road Transport Association, and the NZ Automobile Association.

Opus also undertook speed-limit surveys and reviews in eight locations.

Over the next two and a half weeks, 109 new speed-limit signs would be erected around the district, and where possible the existing speed signs would be reused.

The cost to ratepayers would be about $50,000, and the balance of the bill was being subsidised by the NZ Transport Agency.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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