Big changes are ahead for those who regularly drive between Tūrangi and Taupō.

State Highway 1 between Taupō Airport and Tūrangi has been described as a high-risk road by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Safety Authority and new safety measures will be in place from October 12.

Director regional relationships Steve Mutton says eight people died and 30 were seriously injured on this stretch of SH1 from 2009 to 2018.

"Speed is a factor in every crash. We all make mistakes, and we will never eliminate crashes, but speed can be the factor that determines whether you are killed, seriously injured or walk away from a crash unharmed. Mistakes are inevitable, but deaths and serious injuries aren't.

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"Our priority is to make this road safer so everyone using it can get where they are going safely and reliably," Mutton says.

The speed limit at Motuoapa is dropping from 70km/hr to 60km/hr. Photo / Supplied
The speed limit at Motuoapa is dropping from 70km/hr to 60km/hr. Photo / Supplied

Last year, Waka Kotahi carried out public consultation on speed limits for the road. The local community, Taupō District Council, Tūrangi-Tongariro Community Board, Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board, NZ Police, Automobile Association, Fire and Emergency NZ and other road user groups were consulted.

For the road between Taupō Airport and Waitahanui, Waka Kotahi is still considering whether to install a median barrier in the centre of the road and keeping the speed limit at 100km/h.

Mutton said children from Te Kura o Waitahanui wrote letters saying they wanted the road made safer. A new variable speed limit outside their school will lower the speed limit from 60km/h to 40km/h during peak school traffic times.

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"The new variable speed zone will be approximately 350m long with two electronic signs on the road outside the school displaying the reduced speed limit."

Over the summer other safety improvement work on the section of road around the school will also be done, including making it safer to cross.

From Waitahanui to Tūrangi, the speed limits for the long stretches of open road will continue at 100km/h and speeds through settlements will drop. Mutton said the decrease through the settlements was because of the increasing number of vehicles, proximity to where people live and at popular recreational sites.

Motutere Top 10 Holiday Park owner Daniel Tilton said the speed reduction to 80km/h will have a positive effect on the holiday park and drastically reduce the risk of a crash when campers and boat ramp users are entering or exiting the park. It will also be a major improvement for people crossing the highway.

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From October 12 speed limits will be lowered along parts of State Highway 1 from Taupō Airport to Motuoapa. Photo / Waka Kotahi
From October 12 speed limits will be lowered along parts of State Highway 1 from Taupō Airport to Motuoapa. Photo / Waka Kotahi

"The park is full of hundreds of families with children over the summer and the 100km/h speed limit never made sense to anyone," said Tilton.

After buying the camp in 2017, Tilton said an approach was made to Waka Kotahi about the 100km/h speed limit and following talks with council and local police a petition was lodged for a speed review.

"Hundreds of park patrons signed the petition. We have been active supporters of the speed reduction over the past three years. The outcome goes to show that persistence and people power pay off in the end."

Licorice Cafe owner Jill Welsh says speed is not the issue, however a lack of turning space within the road is a big problem around the Motuoapa area.

"We see near-misses at least once a week. Tourists or elderly overshoot their destination and stop in the middle of the road with trucks right up behind them."

Welsh says her submission to Waka Kotahi for road shoulders or in-road turning areas was largely ignored. She says another frustration is the lack of passing opportunities between Tūrangi and Taupō.

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"I have been travelling this road for many years. It is frustrating that this hasn't been addressed."

She says a speed limit of 60 km/h at Motuoapa is an improvement and estimates travel time for commuters between Tūrangi and Taupō will be increased by 10 to 15 minutes.

Speed Limits from October 12

Hatepe to Halletts Bay, 100km/h to 80km/h

Halletts Bay to Motutere, 100km/h to 60km/h

Motutere to Waitetoko, 100km/h to 80km/h

Waitetoko to Oruatua, 100km/h-70 km/h to 60km/h

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Motuoapa, 70 km/h to 60km/h

Motuoapa to Tūrangi, 100 km/h to 80km/h

Tūrangi, 80 km/h to 60km/h