Speed limits could be cut outside all Whanganui schools by 2027.
Whanganui District Council is proposing to drop speed limits outside rural schools at Okoia, Mangamahu, Kaitoke and Brunswick from 100km/h to 30km/h, with speed limits around most urban schools dropping from 50km/h to 30km/h.
Council transport manager Damien Wood told the council’s strategy and policy committee Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency required speed reductions around 40 per cent of all district schools before June 30 next year.
That amounted to 14 in Whanganui, but it wanted speed limits around all schools by the end of 2027.
Wood said Westmere School was the only school in Whanganui with an appropriate speed limit of 40km/h.
A variable message sign (VMS) is already in place leading up to the school.
Councillor Charlie Anderson questioned the need for public consultation and asked why it couldn’t “just be done”.
Durie Hill School was “chaos” in the mornings, he said.
“People are driving on the wrong side of the road just to get around the traffic.
“I think it’s great we are slowing it down, and hopefully getting more kids back on their bikes.”
Wood said it was important to get the public’s views.
“This is a pretty hot topic for a lot of people and a lot of other councils.”
Regardless of potential central government legislation changes, lowering speeds was the right thing to do, he said.
Councillor Michael Law said before reading Wood’s report, he thought the speed limit was always 30km/h around schools and that every responsible driver knew that.
Law said kids should feel safe when they walked and cycled to school, but “with hoons crashing around at 55km/h in school zones”, parents might not let them use those modes of transport.
Whanganui Rural Community Board member Judd Bailey said when he went to pick up his moko (grandchildren) from school, there was absolute pandemonium around driving and parking.
There were “accidents waiting to happen”, Bailey said.
Councillor Glenda Brown said many primary schools were located on main roads and she endorsed the proposal.
“I’m sure we can all think of situations when we’ve gone to school to pick up kids and there are kids everywhere, running across the road.
“Obviously, there is a management system that schools need to implement as well, but if the result can be a decreased speed, I think it‘s a great thing.”
The proposal is part of the council’s speed management plan, which will also look at making temporary limits permanent, including at parks, reserves, campgrounds, private developments and road sites, Wood said.
“An example of that is on Papaiti Rd. They were introduced as a result of some pretty serious crash injuries in that area.
“They have been in place for two years. They are not meant to be in place more than 12 months.”
State Highway 4 past Ūpokongaro would drop to 40km/h from 70km/h under the new rules.
Wood’s report on the proposal said unbudgeted council expenditure might be needed following the public consultation process.
“This would simply be the installation of signs,” he said.
Dates for the consultation will be released to the community next February.
Mike Tweed is an assistant news director and multimedia journalist at the Whanganui Chronicle. Since starting in March 2020, he has dabbled in everything from sport to music. At present his focus is local government, primarily the Whanganui District Council.