Residents on a crash-prone stretch of State Highway 10 near Kaitaia welcome a proposal to reduce the speed limit — but they say it's only the start of making their village safer.
In July last year Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency proposed cutting speed limits on three stretches of Far North highway — between Taipā and Awanui on SH10, between Puketona and Paihia on SH11, and between Moerewa and Kawakawa on SH1.
The reductions on SH11 and SH1 went ahead in August this year, with some tweaks, but the proposal to reduce the limit from 100km/h to 80km/h between Taipā and Awanui — with a 60km/h limit between Kareponia and Mahimaru marae — was canned.
Waka Kotahi said it would come up with a new proposal for a shorter stretch of SH10 from Awanui to Kaingaroa.
The Advocate understands the agency ran into stiff opposition to a blanket reduction in the limit but also met strong calls for an even bigger speed reduction, particularly around Kareponia, which
dwellings close to the road and a busy marae and kura - and a history of crashes.
Waka Kotahi's new proposal is to leave the limit from Taipā and Kaingaroa at 100km/h while reducing the limit from Kaingaroa to Awanui, a distance of about 7km, to 80km/h.
Also, electronic variable speed limit signs will be installed on either side of the marae, activated by sensor pads under the highway and marae driveways.
When triggered by cars entering or exiting the marae, the signs will display a 60km/h speed limit to slow traffic and allow vehicles to turn safely.
During tangihanga, when people are walking to and from the Komako urupā, the signs can be activated manually to display a 30km/h limit.
Consultation on the new proposal started on Monday and is open until December 20.
Mahimaru Marae, at Awanui, has long raised concerns about speed — especially after two cars crashed through a fence into the marae ātea in eight months — but the strongest voice calling for lower limits has been that of Kareponia Marae road safety spokeswoman Kathleen O'Hare.
O'Hare started her campaign after a child was hit by a car on the highway outside her home two years ago.
The proposed speed reduction on Kareponia Hill was a step in the right direction, and the marae also supported plans for electronic signs allowing traffic speed to be reduced during tangihanga and other large functions, she said.
The marae originally sought a blanket reduction of the speed limit to 60km/h from Awanui to Pairatahi Rd but O'Hare urged residents to get behind Waka Kotahi's new proposal and ''make the road safer sooner''.
Meanwhile the iwi would continue to work with government agencies on other improvements such as footpaths, lighting and barriers.
''This isn't the end of the topic, it's an ongoing discussion.''
The closure of SH1 at Mangamuka Gorge, leading to more traffic along SH10, put an even greater focus on road safety in Kareponia village, O'Hare said.
''To those who object to a lower speed limit because they just want to get from A to B faster, I invite them to talk to people who've been injured, or had a car go through their fence in the middle of the night, or had to pick up bits of their young cousin from the road,'' she said.
Waka Kotahi regional relationships director Steve Mutton said after consulting on the previous proposal, the agency decided a permanent 60km/h limit between Mahimaru and Kareponia marae wouldn't provide the best safety outcomes.
"The speed review on SH10 has been a very robust process and we thank local people for their feedback, including those who didn't support our first proposal. This is good. It's what the consultation process is for. But it's not over yet. We have a new, improved proposal for people to respond to."
Mutton said most crashes were caused by a number of factors, but even when speed was not the cause, it usually determined whether people were killed, injured or walked away unharmed.
The agency recognised marae were a focal point for Māori and attracted many people and vehicles, creating road safety issues at times, he said. Some, however, oppose any reduction in speed limits.
Such is the strength of feeling that an electronic sign displaying the speeds of passing traffic was cut down last year almost as soon as it was erected.
• Go to www.nzta.govt.nz/northland-speed-reviews for more information or to make a submission. In the meantime billboards will be installed along SH10 urging drivers to slow down.