Hawke's Bay MPs will meet Napier-Taupō speed limits reduction opponents on Friday as the heat turns up on the national highways agency to change its mind in a planned 20km/h drop.
Napier MP Stuart Nash, the Minister of Tourism, said today he and fellow Labour MPs Anna Lorck (Tukituki) and Meka Whaitiri (Ikaroa Rawhiti) will attend the meeting.
Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, which announced last month that the speed-limit on about 90km of State Highway 5 between Esk Valley and the Rangitaiki Plains would be reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h from February 18, said its director of regional relationships Linda Stewart will also attend.
Nash said he opposes the decision and is not alone in what is almost a united voice among community leaders in Hawke's Bay on the issue.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst has committed the council to supporting community initiatives, including helping facilitate such a meeting, and Hawke's Bay Regional Council Napier member and Regional Transport Committee chairman Martin Williams told Hawke's Bay Today: "We're not taking this lying down".
All have expressed concerns about the "permanent" nature of Waka Kotahi's announcement, and say a plan to upgrade and improve maintenance needs to be put in place, and if the speeds are to be lowered there needs to be a plan to restore them at 100km/h.
Nash said it's not those driving at 100km/h who are causing crashes on the highway, but those breaking the limit. He wants to see "evidence" that justifies the lowering of the limit, if there is any.
Waka Kotahi's decision followed public consultation on a proposal from the agency last April.
Receiving more than 1700 submissions - most opposing the proposal - Waka Kotahi said in December the submissions did not provide any more information than it had already considered.
Some suggested adjusting the limit to 90km/h, the existing limit for the many truck-and-trailer units on the northern route.
Noting a spate of deaths on the sector of the highway in the year and a half to October 2020 but none since, Nash said: "I'd put the improvement down to increased policing".
"I want to find out what evidence they used to make the decision - and if this is going ahead, what is the process back to the 100km/h limit?" he said.
Waka Kotahi pointed to the recent writing of Minister of Transport Michael Wood, who said: "Recently released data shows that in the year since safer speed limits were set on State Highway 6 between Nelson and Blenheim, there have been no deaths (five in the preceding two years), and just one serious injury crash (15 in the preceding two years).
"Waka Kotahi and the Government faced huge criticism for this change at the time, but I stand by it," he said.
"Our work to set safer speeds is saving lives, and will continue to do so – for me as minister, there is nothing more important.
"I ask other regional leaders, including mayors in Hawke's Bay who are campaigning to retain speed limits that we know to be unsafe, to think about this and to consider doing the right thing, rather than just what is perceived to be the popular thing."
A petition to Parliament by highway resident Kiri Goodspeed had by early this afternoon attracted more than 3800 signatures.