Speed limits on 180 roads around the Far North are likely to be reduced as part of a major speed review starting this week.
Most of the roads up for debate are in the Kaitaia-Awaroa area which covers the rural hinterland west of Kaitaia and as far south as Whangape Harbour, plus the Broadwood-Kohukohu area encompassing most of North Hokianga.
Also included in the review are urban and semi-rural roads in Moerewa and Ōtiria — where locals have been lobbying for lower speeds for more than a decade — and Ninety Mile Beach or Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe, which is also a legal roadway.
State highways, which come under the jurisdiction of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, are not included.
Each road is being considered on its own merits but in general the Far North District Council is proposing to reduce the speed limit on sealed rural roads from 100km/h to 80km/h.
The limit on most unsealed roads, as well as sealed roads with large numbers of homes or significant commercial activity, will be cut from 100km/h to 60km/h.
The standard limit for urban areas will remain at 50km/h except around schools, shopping centres and sports facilities, where it will drop to 40km/h.
Some 50km/h limits in small coastal towns, such as Ahipara, could also be reduced to 40km/h.
Council guidelines suggest leaving the limit at 100km/h only on rural roads which are wide and engineered for safety with shoulders and clearly separated lanes. No such roads exist in the review area.
In Moerewa, the only urban area included in the current review, the council is proposing to reduce the limit on every street to 40km/h.
The limit on Ōtiria Rd within the town boundaries would also be reduced to 40km/h while the maximum speed just west of town, from Kingi Rd to Pokapu Rd, would be reduced from the current 100km/h to 60km/h.
Speeding on Ōtiria Rd, which has a schools, a kohanga reo, two marae and a popular swimming area, has long been a bone of contention for locals.
Hawaiikii Henare, 17, who lives in the 100km/h zone on Ōtiria Rd, welcomed the proposal to drop the limit outside her home to 40km/h.
''I fully support it. There's too many drivers who speed along here and there's been so many accidents. The corner's quite sharp and people go way too fast. It's not hard to drive slow, especially when there's people around.''
In the most recent crash a car had demolished a cycle trail bridge near her house; cars regularly ended up in the paddock across the road and a few drivers had died.
Hawaiikii, who is head girl at Bay of Islands College, said speed was a particular concern at the turn-off to Ōtiria Marae, where school buses stopped and people crossed the road to get to the waterfall at Te Rere i Tiria.
Pamela-Anne Simon, who also lives on Ōtiria Rd, said too many people treated it like a drag strip by driving at 120km/h.
While a reduced speed limit wouldn't change their behaviour on its own, it would allow the installation of speed bumps — a measure which isn't possible on a road with a 100km/h limit.
''So this would be just a first step in making the road safer. I've been hounding them for years to do something about it.''
Another road with a particularly high death rate is Kaitaia-Awaroa Rd, which was also the only viable route for many North Hokianga residents travelling to Kaitaia while SH1 was shut at Mangamuka Gorge.
If the proposal goes ahead in its current form urban sections of Kaitaia-Awaroa Rd will remain at 50km/h, stretches with a limit of 70km/h will rise to 80km/h or drop to 60km/h, and 100km/h zones will be cut to 60km/h or 80km/h.
On Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe the current open-road limit will be reduced to 60km/h while anywhere within 200m of a legal beach access will have a 30km/h limit.
The current review is the second by the Far North District Council.
With so many roads to deal with the council has split the district in manageable chunks, starting in 2019 with roads around Kāeo, Waipapa, Waimate North and Ōkaihau.
There the new limits weren't welcomed by all road users when they came into force in January this year.
Along Wiroa Rd and Waiare Rd, which link Ōkaihau with the Kerikeri roundabout, motorists demolished almost every one of the new 80km/h and 60km/h signs by ramming them with four-wheel-drive vehicles or pushing them over. Ratepayers footed the repair bill.
Far North Mayor John Carter said all Northland councils were reviewing their speed limits, a move which tied in with the Government's Road to Zero strategy to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 40 per cent within 10 years.
Many Far North roads were unsealed, narrow and winding, yet the default speed limit was 100km/h.
Areas with the highest risk were being reviewed first, Carter said.
Statistics showed roads north of Hokianga Harbour and around Awanui and Moerewa had high rates of serious crashes.
Including Ninety Mile Beach would help implement the Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē Beach Management Plan, which was part of a Treaty settlement agreement with Te Hiku iwi.
Travelling too fast for the conditions contributed to nearly a third of the district's fatal or serious injury crashes in 2016-21, Carter said.
Just yesterday the Kaipara District Council passed its first tranche of speed limit reductions, covering the Kaiwaka-Mangawhai area down to the Auckland boundary. Next up will be the area around Kai Iwi Lakes and Pouto Peninsula.
Similar reviews are being carried out across the Whangārei District.
The next area up for review in the Far North will the Bay of Islands-Kerikeri, where consultation is expected to start in late 2021 or early 2022.
That area includes the contentious and increasingly developed Kapiro Rd, a 100km/h zone where residents have in the past taken it upon themselves to alter the signs to read 80km/h. The DIY speed limit was not legally enforceable and the signs were promptly replaced.
Past council reviews of the Kapiro Rd speed limit, however, ruled that 100km/h was appropriate.
■ Go to www.fndc.govt.nz/Whats-new/Have-your-say/Speed-Limits-Bylaw-2021 for a full list of roads under review or to make a submission. You can also pick up a copy of the proposal from council service centres and libraries or call 0800 920 029 to have one posted out. Submissions close on August 24.