Once again a simple idea that isn't going to achieve anything but frustrate some while being ignored by others has been foisted upon us.
In some cases lowering speed limits on roads, from state highways to those owned by local authorities, might well be effective in reducing the road toll.
Certainly, there is a case to be made for slowing traffic at the western end of SH10, for example.
The danger there, as residents have long been pointing out, is not so much to motorists as pedestrians, particularly children, and a short stretch of 70 or 80km/h, from Kumi Rd, past Mahimaru Marae and to the top of Kareponia Hill, would be eminently sensible.
The NZTA's initial idea of reducing the limit to 80 from Awanui to Taipā is less rational, and unlikely to achieve anything more than giving the police the opportunity to dish out tickets galore.
The holus-bolus reduction of limits on local roads, with some specific exceptions perhaps, however, is ridiculous.
True, local roads in the Far North do feature in crash statistics, but not to the extent that reduced limits might be a reasonable response.
The fact is that while these roads have invariably been subject to the open road limit of 100km/h, very few people travel at anything remotely approaching that speed.
In many cases, it is simply not possible to do so, and setting a new speed limit will have no effect at all, apart from costing ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in signs.
It goes without saying that no speed limit is truly effective unless it is enforced. and it is difficult to see the police setting speed traps, or erecting cameras, on many, if any, of this district's back roads.
We already have reduced speed limits outside schools, which is a good thing, but when was the last time anyone drove at 100km/h over the Herekino Gorge, between Herekino and Broadwood (except in short bursts), Mangamuka Bridge and Kohukohu? Anyone who has is unlikely to slow down because the speed limit has been reduced.
If the Government really wants to make back roads safer it will have to seal them, widen them, and get rid of more corners than anyone can begin to count.
That's not going to happen, but reducing speed limits is not a reasonable alternative. Rather it is yet another exercise in wasting money for no benefit. Worse, it could have the opposite effect to that intended.
We are told, ad nauseam, to refrain from driving after drinking, to always use a seat belt, not to use a cellphone whilst driving, not to drive when tired, and to drive to the conditions.
The last one is least simple to define, but is important. If everyone drove according to the conditions, including the state of the road, we would all be safer.
The problem is that some of us can't be trusted to do that. And there is nothing politicians can do about that. At some point they have to accept that we are all adults and have to be relied upon to behave sensibly. No government has ever been able to legislate against stupidity, and no government ever will.
News that the Far North District Council had set the first tranche of reduced speed limits on its roads in motion has been welcomed by some, rightly concerned about speeds in specific localities, which might well benefit from reduced limits, but the response, at least on this newspaper's Facebook page, was to point to some of the drawbacks. One poster suggested that reduced limits would increase road rage, no doubt true, and encourage unsafe passing, undoubtedly true. Another suggested that the problem isn't speed limits but "moronic drivers and clapped out cars." Fair point. A clapped out car travelling at 60km/h might not be a danger to anyone, but moronic drivers invariably are.
Another poster suggested that reduced speed limits, if they really are going to make Far North roads safer, would take a very long time to prove their worth. 'Significant awareness was invested in an attempt to reduce drink driving, but this is still an issue for our community,' she wrote.
Good point. Goodness knows how many millions of dollars have been 'invested' in deterring us from drink driving, but still many do it. Millions more have been spent on persuading us that using a cellphone whilst driving is not a good idea, but still many do it. We should be spending millions more on weeding out the drugged drivers in our midst, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside after a short-lived flurry of political interest.
Nevertheless, substantial sums of our rates, which might have gone towards things like ensuring that we have water and sewage reticulation systems that actually work, will be wasted on a forest of speed limit signs that most will ignore, or will be complied with simply because to go any faster would be dangerous. And for what? A lower road toll? Yeah, right.
Once again we are about to find ourselves paying for an expensive non-solution to a social issue that defies simple answers. If this so-called solution increases crash rates, no one outside Wellington will be surprised. But so what? By that time the brains trust that runs this country, whoever's in power, will have moved on to something else. What Parliament needs is a special Common Sense Unit, whose role will be to weed out the dumb ideas before they start costing money on projects that won't work.
In this case, we might not need speed limits at all if the gloomy prediction of another Facebook poster is on the money: 'Can't fix the roads, spending money on the arts, and now after another month of lockdown level 2 everyone will be broke, won't be able to afford to run a car let alone do the speed limit.'
Former New Zealand test cricketer and now AM Sport show host Mark Richardson might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he hit the nail on the head last week with his response to the media-manufactured furore over the dearth of Māori faces in the National Party's caucus, and the not entirely accurate assertion from deputy leader Nikki Kaye that Paul Goldsmith is one of the few. Richardson's response could be summed up with 'Who cares?' followed by a blast for the party for allowing itself to become embroiled in an issue that was of no significance whatsoever.
Richardson will not be alone in believing that the party's new leadership should have refused to engage, beyond pointing out that what matters most in a party that hopes to lead the country within a few months is talent and policies that will benefit all New Zealanders, and the ability to enact them. Hear hear.
The great advantages of MMP, we were told, and we still are being told, include that it makes Parliament genuinely representative of society. Can't argue with that. The Beehive now seems to include most of the demographics to be found outside it, like idiots, people who display no discernible talent, one-issue wonders and individuals who want to make a difference but don't have a clue how to go about that.
When it comes to elections we should be voting for policies that we believe will benefit us all, not the ethnicity of those promoting those policies. Diversity is important, but not as important as vision, energy and leadership. And who cares if those who have those qualities are Māori, Pākehā or Mongolian?
And how many of those who thrust their microphones into Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye's faces last week were Māori?