"We want everyone who travels on our roads to return home safely," said Auckland Transport (AT) chief executive Shane Ellison, borrowing from WorkSafe's public safety message in its Home Time programme.
Julia Peters, head of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, who has worked with AT on this plan, called road safety in Auckland "a crisis". She welcomed the decision to lower speed limits and said she spoke not just for her service but for "all the doctors and nurses who work in emergency departments and in trauma units".
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This wasn't the only answer to five years of fast-rising deaths and serious injuries, she said. "There are many more things we have to do, and this is one step on the journey."
Lower speeds do work, said Ellison. That had been the experience in the city centre rebuild in Christchurch. It was the experience in Auckland: in the last 10 years in Queen St, with a speed limit of 30km/h, deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 35 per cent.
Do Aucklanders want to slow down? National Party leader Simon Bridges has suggested no.
Barney Irvine of the AA said after the meeting the feedback "consistently shows a proportion of people have not bought into AT's vision" and therefore "compliance is likely to be poor".
AT's Ellison said he believed Aucklanders do support the proposal. His head of "stakeholder engagement", Wally Thomas, told the AT board it was true the number of roads where submitters were opposed to lower speeds slightly outnumbered those where submitters were in favour: 168 to 160.
"But," he added, "there were also 800 more roads, not covered by our proposals, where people asked for new lower limits." The demand is bigger than AT has yet been prepared to meet.
Board chairman Lester Levy also said Bridges had got it wrong about public opinion. But, he said, AT's public consultation was not an opinion poll. "I said at the outset this was going to be an evidence-based exercise. If we had good evidence lower speeds would make a difference, we would do it."
Ellison reminded everyone that AT has an obligation in law to set speed limits that are "safe and appropriate" for the conditions. With road deaths rising, it is required to act.
But what about productivity? Board member Sir Michael Cullen asked if this would add to travel time for freight, and therefore add to costs.
The comment relates to those clogged-up link roads to the motorway. AT network manager Randhir Karma told him the impact was "negligible". Levy called it a spurious argument.
In the end the board voted unanimously to adopt the proposals but with a compromise for Nelson, Hobson and Fanshawe streets: speeds there will be 40 km/h. The new limits will apply to 800km of roads, about 10 per cent of the total, from June 30 next year.
Road safety campaigner Bevan Woodward, from the group Movement, said, "AT's decision represents a fundamentally different way of setting speed limits", because it seeks to identify "survivable limits for victims of crashes".
Barney Irvine of the AA criticised the "blanket reductions". Board member Wayne Donnelly asked about this too, saying he knew of roads "where we might have got away with 90 km/h instead of 80, or 70 instead of 60".
Randhir Karma explained to him that consistency is important. It's unhelpful to drivers if there are lots of different limits and they keep going up or down a little.
Meanwhile the Ratepayers Alliance, aka the Auckland face of the Taxpayers Union, has launched a petition to reverse the decision. If the human cost of a surging crash rate doesn't concern them, perhaps someone should explain the financial cost of every death and injury on our roads.