The Hastings District Council has taken the unusual step of placing a full-page advertisement in Hawke's Bay Today to mount a campaign to stop the speed limit being lowered on two-thirds of the highway between Napier and Taupo.
The advertisement appeared today (Thursday), placed by the council and prepared by Te Pohue Community Group member Kiri Goodspeed, with just four weeks to the February 18 lowering of the speed limit from 100km/h to 80km/h on about 90 kilometres between Esk Valley and the Rangitaiki Plains.
Using an image of a road sign, it says "Stop the SH5 speed reduction", and Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says the council is leading and supporting the community response to the decision, which was announced last month by national highways management authority Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.
"What council and the community want is the decision to have a blanket speed reduction over almost 90km of the Napier-Taupo road rescinded by Waka Kotahi," she told Hawke's Bay Today.
"Instead, speed reductions should be targeted at areas that have proven to be dangerous.
"We need a plan that addresses the very real problems, and a long-term plan for improvements to State Highway 5."
At particular issue, in addition to the change, is that the council and community believe views objecting to the proposal in 1791 submissions last year were ignored. Many opposed the proposal, some suggesting that if there were to be a general reduction in the limit it should be to 90km/h – already the limit for much of the trucking on the vital freight link.
Others suggested limits be cut on the more dangerous sections, some of which are already indicated by "High Crash Area" warnings and lower speed advisories on bends.
Plans include the council lodging submissions to Waka Kotahi as opportunities have arisen; the council supporting the community petition (using council channels), and assisting the community to arrange a meeting with MPs.
It also includes liaising with mayors across New Zealand - "seeking support for the stance of HDC and the community given the reduced speed on highways initiative is nationwide" - and with business leaders seeking support focused on the cumulative effect of all the speed drops on business costs across the country, Hazlehurst says.
Uniquely, there were advertising and community opportunities "for the public to support the HDC/community action".
It is understood Hawke's Bay MPs – all Government MPs who last year called for NZTA to do a business case study for major upgrading and maintenance of the highway – are discussing responses, and Goodspeed hopes a public meeting with NZTA representatives can be held.
Hawke's Bay MPs - including Napier MP Stuart Nash, inside whose area much of the effects SH5 area sits - were at a Labour caucus retreat in New Plymouth and unable to be contacted for comment.