The National Road Carriers Association is calling for an "urgent review" of the
state highway network as consultation begins to reassess speed limits on nearly two-thirds of Northland's state highways.
Speed limits on 626km – 64 per cent - of the 978km of roading the Government's transport agency maintains across the region could be slashed as part of sweeping nationwide changes to reduce the road death toll.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is seeking feedback from Northlanders about the current speeds on nine state highways identified where safer speed limits could make a big difference in preventing deaths and serious injuries.
NRCA commercial transport specialist Paula Rogers said the Government needs to be spending money on bringing roads up to scratch, "not engineering driver behaviour to accommodate poor infrastructure".
"What we are seeing is the Government reducing speed limits, not just in Northland but on state highways all around New Zealand, in the hope that if people are going really slowly on appalling roads when they crash, they won't die.
"At a time when our supply chain is almost broken and our economy needs goods to be flowing freely, slowing down everyone on the road slows the economy down."
Automobile Association spokesman Dylan Thomsen said it was "the largest-scale review of state highways that we've seen in New Zealand to date".
"This is a really sweeping review in terms of looking at all the state highways in Northland at the same time.
"It has the potential to create major changes across Northland."
Stretches of highway up for review include SH10 from Pakaraka to Taipa, SH11 from Kawakawa to Paihia, SH1 between Kawakawa and Whangārei, and SH1 between Whangārei and Te Hana.
SH12 Ōmāpere to Kaikohe, SH12 from Brynderwyn to Ōmāpere and SH14 Dargaville to Whangārei will also be assessed.
Thomsen said reducing speed limits "just about always" meant fewer and less severe crashes, which was positive.
But any proposal for speed reductions should be combined with measures to upgrade and improve key roads for a balanced approach, he said.
"It shouldn't be the only tool in the toolbox.
"It needs to be combined with a range of other measures.
"We've been looking to highlight the crumbling state of Northland roads and the desperate need for maintenance on state highways in particular.
"Motorists would be extremely frustrated if they felt the roads are not getting enough investment to keep up to the standard they should be and they're having speed reductions as well."
A host of pop-up events are scheduled around Northland from May 6 to May 13 so the public can talk with Waka Kotahi staff.
The public engagement period runs until June 14.
Waka Kotahi regional relationships director Steve Mutton said improving safety on New Zealand roads is a top priority.
The agency is committed to Vision Zero, which aspires to a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads by 2030.
Currently, one person is killed every day and another is injured every hour on average on New Zealand roads.
New Zealand's road death rate is 7.9 per 100,000 population, whereas countries with good safety performances have rates between 2 and 4 per 100,000.
Australia's current rate is 5 deaths per 100,000 population and Sweden's is 2.6.
"We're working to deliver a safe system which acknowledges that even responsible people can make mistakes on our roads and that these mistakes should not cost us our lives," Mutton said.
"To reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads we need to take action on several fronts, from speed limits to driver education to improving the safety of roads and vehicles.
"It's not a matter of choosing one over the other, but even when speed isn't the direct cause of a crash, it is the single biggest factor that determines whether a person is killed, seriously injured or walks away from a crash unharmed."
Fourteen people have died on Northland roads so far this year, one more than at the same stage of 2020.
Mutton said the speed of a vehicle at impact is the single biggest factor in determining a person's survival in a crash.
Motorists are around 30 per cent more likely to be in a serious injury crash at 90km/h than at 80km/h.
John Williamson, chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, said it was "great" that Waka Kotahi was reviewing the network and consulting the public.
Inevitably, many roads would have the speed limit reduced, he said, but engineering works should also be carried out at some places.
"It is a state highway, it's not just a local road, so you should expect state highways to be as good as they can be.
"The default position should not be a reduction in speed limits.
"It should be an appropriate speed limit for the nature of the road and what the community think about that."
Brake New Zealand spokeswoman Caroline Perry said the organisation, which supports people bereaved and injured from crashes, has been calling for a review "for some time".
New Zealand still has a "historic road network" with speed limits not appropriate for some of our high-risk open roads and state highways, she said.
"While speed may not be the cause in all crashes, it is a factor in the outcome of every crash.
"The faster you go the bigger the impact and the more likely someone would be killed or seriously injured."
National Road Carriers chairman Don Wilson, who owns OnRoad Transport livestock transport company, said reduced speed limits would add "significantly" to trip times.
"That has a knock-on effect of impacting work time, for which there are rules. That all costs money which as an operator we have to pass on to our clients.
"The roading network needs improving and maintaining to a level that is fit and safe for our staff to operate on and return to their families each day.
"The current standard is not acceptable."
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Steve Smith said speed reductions added "another layer of frustration" for businesses.
"I appreciate the safety element, but they're trying to enforce rules on people who are already sensible enough to drive within those limits.
"The people ignoring the old speed limit will ignore the new one as well.
"I can guarantee the average person out there is going to come under stress from this. It's mindless."
In August last year Waka Kotahi reduced the speed limit on SH1 between Kawakawa and Moerewa from 100km/h to 80km/h.
Far North District councillor Kelly Stratford said the change has made a difference.
"People do feel safer and that's the most important thing. Raising up your voices together for a collective outcome does work."
Mutton said any new proposed speed limits will be formally consulted on after feedback.
He encouraged people to email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
Northland state highways up for review
* SH1 Pukenui to Kaitaia
* SH10 Pakaraka to Taipa
* SH11 Kawakawa to Paihia
* SH1 Kawakawa to Whangarei
* SH15 between SH1 (north of Kaikohe) and Otaika
* SH12 Omapere to Kaikohe
* SH14 Dargaville to Whangārei
* SH12 Brynderwyn to Omapere
* SH1 Whangārei to Auckland boundary
Have your say
* Paihia Countdown, Thursday 6 May, 3pm-6pm
* Houhora Four Square, Friday 7 May, 11am–2pm
* Kaitaia Pak'nSave, Friday 7 May, 4pm–6pm
* The Old Packhouse Markets, Kerikeri, Saturday 8 May, 8am–12pm
* Whangārei Otaika Shopping Centre, Saturday 8 May, 3pm–6pm
* Ōmāpere/Opononi Food Mart, Tuesday 11 May, 11am–2pm
* Kaikohe Countdown, Wednesday 12 May, 5pm–7pm
* Dargaville Countdown, Thursday 13 May, 3pm–6pm