Auckland Transport is set to put the brakes on motorists today with a decision to reduce speed limits across the city.
The decision — which aims to reduce deaths and injuries on Auckland roads
— will have ramifications for road users and bring intense scrutiny to the council-controlled organisation (CCO).
Hundreds of suburban and rural roads will have speed limits dropped and the entire central city will become a 30km/h zone under a bylaw being voted on by the AT board.
The biggest impact could be lower speeds on rural roads, with almost nine out of 10 of the affected roads in Rodney, Franklin and Waitemata.
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The actions of the unelected directors of AT will affect nearly every Aucklander. Mayor Phil Goff says he expects AT to carry the community with it in the decisions the board makes.
It's a testing time for AT to be making such a big decision with an independent review and reform of the five CCOs about to get under way.
Goff has made it a top priority of his second term to stop CCOs being unresponsive to communities, saying he shares public concerns about whether they can be held accountable.
The mayor agrees a 78 per cent rise in the number of deaths and serious injuries on Auckland roads between 2014 and 2017 needs to be addressed, but has a non-committal stance for the lower speed package.
"I have asked AT to consider closely all of the many submissions received so that it is aware of and carries our community with it in the decisions that are made, and for decisions in this area to be evidence-driven."
The issue has split the public down the middle, with marginally more of the 11,500 submissions against the speed limit reductions than in support.
Out of the 700 roads slated for speed limit reductions, the submissions revealed net support for speed reductions on 160 roads, net opposition on 168 roads and 372 roads where submissions were evenly weighted.
Public submissions requested reduced speed limits on a further 850km of roads not considered in the draft bylaw.
The most hotly debated proposal is a 30km/h speed limit in the central city, including Hobson St, Nelson St and Fanshawe St, which connect to the motorway system.
Bike Auckland spokeswoman Barb Cuthbert said the city centre is now a major residential centre with a dense population and children needing to be kept safe walking to and from school.
"We need to front up and realise that this is the sort of thing that happens in cities overseas everywhere and it's not a peculiar concept. It's just that we have been behind the eight ball," said Cuthbert, whose organisation supports a blanket 30km/h speed limit in the central city.
When AT adopted a Vision Zero approach to road safety plan last month - targeting 65 per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2030 and zero by 2050 - Michael Hale from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service called road safety "a critical issue for public health".
"These are ambitious targets and we are addressing the issue in the right way," he said.
The Automobile Association believes it is almost a foregone conclusion that one of the two options to pass the bylaw will get up, as opposed to a third option to defer the decision.
"They'll [AT board] will be very nervous about the scrutiny they'll be under," AA principal adviser Barney Irvine said.
"They've been very committed to this issue. They're heavily invested, they really believe in it. Certainly, the option to do nothing is not going to happen, so it comes down to how far they want to go with it [the bylaw]."
National Party leader Simon Bridges - a former Minister of Transport - called on AT to listen to the views of Aucklanders and reject blanket speed limit reductions across the city.
He said National took road safety seriously and speed limit reductions on some roads made sense, but blanket reductions would only frustrate motorists and slow Auckland down.
"Compliance will depend on public support, which doesn't exist, so the proposals have the potential to be counterproductive," he said.
What is being proposed
The bylaw reduces speeds on 700 roads spanning 828km.
It sets a 30km/h limits in the CBD and other high-use suburban centres. High risk rural roads will drop to 80km/h and high risk urban roads to 40km/h.
The lower speeds will come into effect by mid-next year.
The proposal has been in the works since 2017 and is designed to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Auckland roads, which increased by 78 per cent between 20014 and 2017.
The three options before the AT board are:
Option 1: To defer a decision on the bylaw and reassess the changes.
Option 2: This would essentially enforce the bylaw in full with "minor modifications". It would make the speed limit for the entire city centre area 30km/h, down from largely 50km/h.
Option 3: A modified version of Option 2. The major four-lane CBD streets Hobson St, Nelson St and Fanshawe St would be reduced to 40km/h rather than 30km/h and the bylaw would not reduce the speed limit of 20 low-risk rural roads.