Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott has weighed into public anger over a new 60km/h speed limit on the alternate route to the closed Manawatu Gorge.
"The 60km/h speed limit imposed on the Saddle Rd from Ashhurst to Mangaatua Stream is just too slow," Scott said.
"The NZTA's consultation process on the speed limit was done with limited advertising and was inappropriately short at only five days long. Yes, the NZTA advertised on their website, but I am not convinced many of us were likely to have seen that. They also placed one advertisement in the Manawatu Standard and apparently advertised through social media, although no detail on exactly where."
Scott said he was surprised NZTA received 217 submissions with such limited publicity.
However, NZTA said the setting of the permanent speed limits followed engagement with the police, AA and the Road Transport Forum and consultation with the public, who had asked NZTA to consider more and longer passing lanes and slow vehicle bays along the Saddle, with improved signage and more safety improvements.
While the Tararua District Council and the Road Safe Group put a submission to NZTA, recommending the route retain a 80km/h speed limit, except for a variable 60km/h at the summit of the Saddle Rd, the NZTA said a consistent 60km/h speed limit would reduce driver mistakes.
"Fewer crashes will also mean fewer closures, which will increase the reliability of this important route," NZTA director of safety and environment Harry Wilson said.
Since the gorge closed in April 2017, traffic volumes on the Saddle Rd have increased from 150 to 5100 vehicles a day and NZTA said crashes had increased 88 per cent, including one fatal and two serious crashes.
Wilson said the increase in traffic and crashes, along with the narrow and windy nature of the road, meant 60km/h was the only safe and appropriate speed for Saddle Rd.
"This is in line with the speeds people currently travel along the road," Wilson said.
However, Scott said, with the construction on the new route not starting until next year, he believes businesses on either side of the Gorge were destined to suffer for a long time.
"The 60km/h speed limit is a further deterrent to both travellers and tourists," he said.
"The lack of patronage puts enormous pressure on the future of these businesses. I have read the reasoning and evidence from the NZTA for the 60km/h speed limit, but I still remain unconvinced it is the right course of action. In my view, the tight corners on the route are already signposted appropriately."
Scott said he supported the Tararua District Council's submission to NZTA, advocating for a 60km/h limit at just the summit of the Saddle Rd.
"I am disappointed the NZTA didn't take the commonsense recommendation from the Tararua District Council on board," he said.
And while many people are upset by the 60km/h speed limit, Woodville's Kathy Meredith said she believes it was the best thing which could have happened.