More senior citizens and people with medical conditions are hitting the Heretaunga Plains, thanks to lowered speed limits.

Hastings District Council controversially lowered the maximum speed limit, from 100km/h to 80km/h, on about 78km of roads on the Heretaunga Plains in the interests of safety.

The change has the unintended consequence of allowing restricted drivers on to the lowered speed zones.

When drivers turn 75, 80 and every two years after 80, they must gain a medical certificate of fitness to drive from their GP before their licence can be renewed.


The doctor can place conditions such as wearing glasses, time-of-day or distance travelled from home.

The driver could also be deemed medically fit to drive subject to an on-road safety test.

A New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman said it did not know how many drivers were affected in Hawke's Bay.

"Distance and speed zone restrictions were designed to allow older drivers, or those with medical conditions, to maintain their mobility while minimising risks," he said.

By limiting driving to lower-speed zones it allowed them to "maintain their mobility while minimising risks".

Hastings and Districts Grey Power president Marie Dunningham said the change was a boon to older drivers facing licence restrictions.

"For the older person that has a limitation on their driver's licence, it is wonderful," she said.

"It is really hard to give up your car. That is one of the huge problems of being older, because with it comes dependency."


If people were not allowed to drive, they were probably unable to transport themselves by other means, she said.

"You are dependent on other people to take you. Most children, especially in their 40s to 60s, are nearly all in full-time work. If they are not in work, they often don't have a car. It is a real problem."

The council has had a bumpy road since making the bylaw change in March.

The change was put out for public submissions a second time after a public outcry. Last month, the submission deadline was extended to October 15 after the council failed to notify some Havelock North residents the process had begun.

Hawke's Bay Today had previously been inundated with comments from readers expressing anger at the speed-limit reductions.

"It took me so long to get home doing this goofy new 80km/h that the missus threw my dinner out to the dog," said one reader.

"Good one, HDC [Hastings District Council]," said another, "now we can expect bad drivers to travel at 65-75km/h and really slow things up, like productivity."

Prominent Hawke's Bay businessman Rod Drury also criticised the speed cuts when they came into force, saying the national norm was 100km/h on an open road.

"I don't think the council has a mandate to change these things. For us frequent commuters, it is incredibly frustrating. Why meddle with this sort of stuff?" he said.