A Motuoapa resident says the new lowered speed limits on State Highway 1 between Taupō and Tūrangi are confusing, add unnecessary time to the trip and duck the real issue - that the section of highway needs a complete overhaul.
The speed limits on the 51km section between Taupō and Tūrangi were lowered last October after Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency called for people to have their say on the proposal to lower speed limits between the two towns as a way of reducing fatal and serious injury crashes.
Eight people died and 30 were seriously injured on the stretch of road between 2009 and 2018.
The new speed limits came into force on October 12 last year and now Waka Kotahi is asking for submissions on its proposal to lower the speed limit along State Highway 5 Napier to Taupō, from 100km/h to 80km/h between Rangitaiki and Eskdale.
Jim Scott, who is a registered civil engineering associate and has 57 years of road design and construction experience, was one of 183 people who made submissions on the proposed speed limits between Taupo and Turangi.
Of those, only 11 per cent of submitters supported all Waka Kotahi's proposals. The others either supported some, wanted modified changes, had other issues or didn't support any changes.
Issues raised during the consultation process were that there would be increased frustration and risk-taking, the condition of the road and lack of passing lanes, and the need for a proper solution, namely an inland bypass.
But Mr Scott says the recommendations that were implemented essentially were Waka Kotahi's own, with no amendments from the public feedback.
"What is the point of the public and interested authorities giving feedback if this feedback is ignored," Mr Scott says. "I suspect that they had no intention of listening to the feedback at all and that they use this exercise just to show they have asked for submissions.
"While there was support for some of the proposals – in particular the speed reduction through Waitahanui and the associated school zone proposals – there was a considerable opposition to many speed reduction proposals."
A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said in a supplied statement that the route has numerous roadside hazards such as large trees, roadside drains and the winding section north of Motutere, along with a diverse range of people using it, from trucks to holidaymakers.
"A small change in speed makes a big difference. Even when speed doesn't cause the crash, it is most likely to determine whether anyone is killed or injured or walks away unharmed. Making speed limits safe and appropriate for this road is something we were able to do now to help prevent people from being killed or seriously injured.
"Issues about speed on this stretch of SH1 have been persistently raised by the community and stakeholders."
A Tūrangi man, who wanted to be known only as Roger, and who travels the road regularly, is also unhappy with the new speed limit changes, saying in some areas they are too slow.
"If you stick to the speed limit and go bloody-minded about it and just travel along at the right speed, you get these truck drivers come charging up behind you and it's a ploy that they do to make you speed up. If I wind down the window and point at the sign as I go past, they drop back a bit."
Roger says at times he has counted up to 55 cars in a line on the highway and sooner or later somebody becomes impatient and attempts to overtake a whole string of cars, with potentially catastrophic results.
The Waka Kotahi statement says along with a technical assessment, early engagement with stakeholders led to the speed limit proposal being modified to include a variable speed limit around Te Kura o Waitahanui, and extending the speed review south to Tūrangi. Following that, formal consultation was undertaken for four weeks and the submissions analysed.
"Consultation for any proposed speed limit change is about much more than asking if people are 'for or against' the proposal. It is about seeking valuable local and community input so that we can consider wider factors and context into our decisions.
"Reducing speed limits is not the only way to improve safety on this section of the state highway network. Safer speed limits along this route are complementary to any safety improvements, rather than an alternative to those safety improvements."
Mr Scott says lowering speed limits is just a bandaid to fix a problem road that requires much more attention and funds. He cites narrow carriageway widths, little or no shoulder in some areas, narrow bridges and tight bends among the issues.
"The best way to make this road safe is to first of all fix the road ... make it fit for purpose as New Zealand's major arterial route."
State Highway 1 Taupō to Tūrangi
From 2011 to 2019, 32 fatal and serious crashes were recorded.
From January to October 2020 before the new speed limits took effect, there were three.
After the new speed limits took effect on October 12, 2020 there have been fatal or serious crashes.
However crash analysis data from 2020 onwards is still incomplete as there is a lag between the time of a crash and full and correct crash records being lodged in NZTA's system.
State Highway 5 Napier to Taupō
From 2011 to 2019, 62 fatal and serious crashes were recorded.
Since then, there have been another 12, but the crash analysis data is still incomplete.
Of the crashes recorded between 2011 and 2021, more than half (33) were between Waipunga and Te Pohue.
Source: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency