Transport Minister Phil Twyford has dismissed claims that the government is proposing radical reductions in speed limits across the country. There was no intention to reduce speed limits on the "vast bulk" of roads, although investigating lower speed limits for the most dangerous roads in the country were part of a balanced approach to making roads safer, along with investing more in proven safety improvements and safe driving messages.
"We hear from some communities living on and around dangerous roads that they want to have safer, lower speed limits," Mr Twyford said.
"For example, Taupō Mayor David Trewavas said he would welcome speed limits being dropped in his area following a number of tragedies.
"It's about the right speed limit for the right stretch of road. Research from NZTA shows there is support for lowering the speed limits on the most dangerous roads. NZTA's approach will be very targeted, and they will consult with local communities.
"The most important things drivers can do are slow down and drive to the conditions. Speed is the single biggest factor that determines the outcome of a crash. The speed at which people drive through towns also has a big effect on how those communities live and play."
The road toll, he added, had "ballooned" between 2013 and last year, which he saw as a clear result of the previous government's choice to invest 40 per cent of the transport budget on a few "hand-picked" motorways that only carried four 4 per cent of vehicle journeys, while starving the rest of the transport network. Safety infrastructure was not seriously invested in, and local and rural roads were largely ignored.
He also rejected suggestions that a rising road toll was a natural outcome of an increasing population and people travelling more.
"That's outrageous when you look at countries such as the UK, Sweden and Denmark, where population has grown but road deaths have decreased," Mr Twyford said. "Under our government our neglected regional roads are getting $600 million more, and we're investing $1.4 billion over the next three years in targeted road safety upgrades, like median and side barriers and wider shoulders. When fully rolled out, we're expecting these to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year.
"Several Opposition MPs have said our government made a cut to the police road safety budget. Again, not true," he added.
"Our road safety partnership programme includes $1 billion in funding for road policing, with $352 million in funding already approved for 2018-2019. This three-year funding represents an increase of $85 million above the previous government's road policing programme.
"Moreover, police are already testing for drug-drivers, and our Government is currently consulting on how we can improve the process to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel.
"Safety is our top transport priority, and we're getting on with installing life-saving safety upgrades on our state highways and local roads, over 3000km of them. We're investing more in regional roads, building roads and investing in police.
"Speed is only one small part of our plan to help more Kiwis get home safe. We're fixing up the mess the last government left us, and getting on with tackling the long-term issues."