Kathleen O'Hare knows how dangerous State Highway 10 at Kareponia can be. She lives at the top of the hill, and has long been fighting for a reduced speed limit.

And she had thought progress was being made.

Last week, however, she said the tiny community had been betrayed by the NZTA, which was proposing a speed reduction from 100km/h to 80, not only at Kareponia but from Awanui to Taipa.

According to NZTA data, 80km/h is only fractionally slower than the average speed traffic was travelling at now, she said, and was still "way too fast" for the safety of the tamariki and their families on the hill.

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Kareponia Marae and Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu had been fighting for a reduction in the speed limit on the hill for more than 20 years.

"Last year we seemed to be getting real traction, with NZTA officials fronting up to the community at Kareponia Marae to hear about the reality of living life in a small rural settlement with what is effectively a Kareponia 'betrayed' by the NZTA

motorway roaring through the middle of it," Mrs O'Hare said.

"We shared our frustration, built up over years, as well as our stories. I will always remember one of our young teenagers who talked about the trauma of seeing her 6-year-old cousin hit by a car after getting off his school bus. She was the first responder, who summoned help after ensuring he was as safe as he could be, a burden no teenager should have to shoulder.

"We had one message to NZTA — the speed limit on Kareponia Hill must come down to 50km/h. We thought we were getting through. NZTA supplied high-vis vests to our tamariki catching buses. We had two speed reduction signs installed. Things were looking up — or so we thought.

"Imagine then, our sense of betrayal when we read NZTA's consultation paper proposing a blanket 80km/h speed limit from Taipa to Awanui, including through Kareponia.

"In its backgrounder, attempting to justify the proposed speed, NZTA correctly outlines the risk to children crossing the road and school buses turning. In the same set of bullet points, however, it states that there were 41 crashes involving two deaths and four serious injuries on the hill. It then states that people are already driving on average at about 82km/h through Kareponia, and, incredibly, proposes that a safe speed for Kareponia is therefore 80km/h.

"People driving at an average of 82km/h have caused 41 crashes, two deaths and four serious injuries. Therefore, NZTA concludes, a safe speed is 80km/h. Do they even read their own b*****?"

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Mrs O'Hare believed "this appalling proposal" appeared to be driven by a policy of instituting blanket speed reductions from 100km/h across the board, across the country, when every community had different traffic conditions and needs.

"This is Traffic Management 10.

"It is a fact so fundamental it seems unbelievable that anyone, let alone our national roading agency, would question it. Although the speed limit at Kareponia needs to be set at 50km/h to be safe, there are straight stretches of road between Taipa and Awanui where responsible motorists can easily travel at 100km/h in safety. The 'one speed fits all' approach defies rationality. NZTA appears to be being driven by policy rather than the specific needs of the community, expressed clearly by communities like Kareponia.

"Policy, at the end of the day, exists to serve people, not the other way round. Above all, policy needs to be grounded in common sense.

"I thought we had made progress with NZTA. Instead we have the worst possible outcome — a proposal that promotes a compromise that serves nobody well. Did anybody from NZTA even hear what we have been saying? Maybe they might like to have incorporated some of our feedback, already offered, into their proposal before seeking yet more feedback.

"At our first hui, at Kareponia Marae in the middle of last year, a NZTA official assured us that they would be willing to come with us on a journey as we work together towards reviewing the speed limit on Kareponia Hill. The 'journey' is starting to feel more like an abduction."

■Page 5 — Open road speed limits under review.