A change in speed limit would barely increase travel time, but would reduce harm when accidents do occur, says Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke.
At last week's Policy and Services meeting, elected members received a decision report from Steve Bowden, Stratford District Council roading asset manager, recommending the speed limit on Opunake Rd from Elizabeth Grove to the Stratford District boundary be reduced from 100km/h to 80 km/h.
The reduction would equate to an increase in driving time along that stretch of road of just two minutes, he said.
The proposal to reduce the speed limit on that section of road had been out for consultation since late last year, he told elected members. A total of 64 submissions were received, with 30 in favour and 34 opposed.
The report recommended the speed limit be reduced to 80km/h, with the mayor and eight councillors voting in favour of the recommendation. The decision was not unanimous however, with deputy mayor Alan Jamieson voting against the reduction and councillor Vaughan Jones abstaining from the vote.
Deputy mayor Jamieson said reducing the speed limit was "a cop out".
"We budgeted in the Long Term Plan for improvements on that road. That's significant money we haven't spent yet. Doing those improvements will go a long way to help reduce accidents ... you can't drive all of that road at 100km/h anyway."
He said if the desire was to reduce the road toll to zero, a 20km/h drop in speed limit wouldn't achieve that.
"If you really want a road toll of zero, then you need to make the speed limit 20km/h."
He wasn't in favour of the proposed reduction to 80km/h, he said.
"I don't want to reduce the speed limit just for the sake of it. It will reduce productivity for users on the road."
Councillor Jones did not give a reason for abstaining.
Mayor Neil Volzke spoke in favour of reducing the limit, saying the area of road under discussion had a very high crash rate.
"The statistics are appalling by anyone's standards. They tell a clear story that something is wrong with that road."
Mayor Volzke said he noticed many of the submissions opposed to reducing the speed limit still noted speed was a factor when it came to accidents on that road.
"There are many other causes of accidents on that road, including black ice, sun strike, heavy rain, fog, even the topography of the road itself, but in all those cases, speed will make the outcome worse.
"If you do make a mistake due to any of those factors, your injuries, the damage caused will be less if you are travelling at a lower speed."
That meant, he said, it was a "no-brainer" to reduce the speed limit to help reduce serious harm caused by such accidents.
Councillor Jono Erwood agreed.
"Geographically, that road isn't suited for 100km/h. We are talking about two minutes difference in driving time, and we're saving lives."
Councillor Boyde also supported the recommendation.
"We would be irresponsible if we didn't reduce the speed limit. It's about protecting people."
With nine elected members voting in favour of the recommendation, one against and one abstaining the decision will now be confirmed by councillors at May's full council meeting and come into effect from June 1 this year.
Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council