Waka Kotahi- New Zealand Transport Association has announced plans to reduce the speed limit along a notoriously dangerous strip of State Highway 10, following the tragic accident of an 11-year-old boy struck by a truck at Kareponia recently.
On September 28, Seth Ngawhika was attempting to cross the SH10 to get home when he was hit by the truck, leaving him with critical, life-threatening injuries.
As a result, Seth was flown to Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital where he has remained in intensive care until just a few days ago.
Waka Kotahi released a statement last Thursday stating it would introduce a range of speed reductions along SH10, extending from Awanui through to Kaingaroa.
The changes come following renewed calls from the community to make the road safer, particularly in residential areas where school children are forced to cross the road.
As of October 22, there will be an extension of the existing 50km/h area by 190m east of Awanui, from 430m west of Kumi Road to SH10/SH1 intersection and the speed reduced from 100km/h to 50km/h.
Both the areas through Kaingaroa from 610m northeast of Duncan Rd to 360m southwest of Duncan Rd, as well as Kareponia (1.480km southwest of Pairatahi Road) to 1.275km northeast of Godinovich Rd, will be reduced to 60km/h.
Finally, the existing 100km/h area from 455m southwest of Pukewhai Rd to 610m northeast of Duncan Rd, as well as the area 360m southwest of Duncan Rd to 1.480km southwest of Pairatahi Rd and 1.275km northeast of Godinovich Rd to 430m west of Kumi Rd, will all be reduced to 80km/h.
Steve Mutton, Waka Kotahi director for regional relationships Te Tai Tokerau me Tāmaki Makaurau, said the agency's priority had been to implement speed reductions on SH10 between Awanui and Kaingaroa as quickly as possible.
"We acknowledge these changes have been a long time coming for members of the community, especially in light of the devastating crash in the village of Kareponia which occurred while work to confirm lower speed limits was being finalised," Mutton said.
"Ensuring state highways have safe and appropriate speed limits is a key element of Waka Kotahi's work to prevent people being killed or seriously injured in road crashes."
Formal consultation on the current proposals started about a year ago, following initial consultation on the corridor in 2019.
Waka Kotahi said it received vital feedback from iwi, road users, stakeholders and the communities and residents along the route.
A number of communities are situated along SH10 between Awanui and Kaingaroa, including the settlement of Kareponia (between Church Rd and Kumi Rd ) which includes more than 50 households, a church, a cemetery, a kohanga reo and two marae.
Kareponia Marae road safety spokeswoman Kathleen O'Hare said she was relieved to hear the news and excited for everyone in the area.
"This is well overdue and it's sad it's needed something like what happened to Seth to drive home just how important this issue is," O'Hare said.
"I'm just relieved and I can't wait for this to happen.
"NZTA still needs to ensure there is an education campaign about the change in speed so that people know to slow down.
"I'd ultimately love the korēro to keep going about this area because I still think we need guard rails and maybe even an underpass, but my motto at the moment is 'safer sooner'."
Chief executive of Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu, Anahera Herbert-Graves, agreed while she was grateful for the changes, more needed to happen to ensure no one was injured there again.
"We acknowledge the efforts Waka Kotahi in recent years, however, we always wanted safer sooner and cannot divorce this decision from the long history of accidents, injuries, near misses and deaths on the Hill. It should have happened years ago," Herbert-Graves said.
"NZTA needs to install bus bays along with bus stop signs and shelters, and/or the Ministry of Education needs to mandate its school bus contractors to pick up and drop off our tamariki mokopuna at bus stops on both sides of SH10, so they don't have to cross the road to get home.
"They also need to place signage and markings both sides of the Kareponia settlement that indicate drivers are coming into a semi-urban area - similar to the markings and signs both sides of Waipapa and Kaeo.
"Finally, while not a popular solution with those passing through, there wouldn't be many (if any) objections from residents and locals if there was a speed camera installed on the hill."
The permanent speed limit changes will initially be posted using temporary signs at the locations listed above.
They will be replaced once permanent signs are available, approximately three to five weeks later.
There will also be further speed management interventions around marae and road widening work taking place at Kareponia, scheduled for 2022.
The first phase of the works is estimated to cost around $200,000.
When asked about the possibility of creating an underpass, Mutton said it wasn't something currently on Waka Kotahi's radar.
"Given the complexity, time and significant cost involved with constructing an underpass, it's not part of our current considerations."
Further information, including a map of the speed limit changes, the consultation summary and submissions, is available on the Waka Kotahi website: nzta.govt.nz/projects/awanui-to-kaingaroa/