New data suggests legal speeds on many Western Bay of Plenty roads are too high but road safety advocates say cutting limits is not the answer.
According to a New Zealand Transport Agency Mega Maps risk assessment data tool, the limits of about 80 per cent of 50km/h and 100km/h roads in Tauranga and the Western Bay were either higher or lower than what was assessed as safe and appropriate for the conditions.
The majority of limits were too high, including a huge 93 per cent of 100km/h roads in the Western Bay of Plenty district.
One stretch of State Highway 2, south of Katikati between Marshall Rd and Plummers Point Rd has been identified as the second most dangerous road in New Zealand, with 1.4 fatalities per kilometre since 2000.
100km/h speed limit
NZTA's Mega Maps planning tool estimates 95 per cent of NZ's open road should have a lower speed limit than 100km/h. Drag the slider from left to right to see how many roads are affected.
In Tauranga, Welcome Bay Rd and Pyes Pa Rd would drop from 60km/h to 50km/h, while Oropi Rd - currently 80km/h - should drop to 60km/h.
State Highway 29 around Tauriko was 100km/h but the data indicated 80km/h would be safer.
City thoroughfares Cameron Rd and Turrett Rd were assessed as safe to remain at 50km/h.
Transport agency spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the data was only one part of a much larger process when assessing roads and setting speed limits.
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Road deaths since 2000
Each red dot on the map shows one fatal road crash. Zoom in to explore.
It was a starting point, not an endpoint or a recommendation.
The Automobile Association's Mike Noon has said councils should upgrade roads rather than take the "shortcut" of dropping speed limits. He questioned whether motorists were being sufficiently consulted on proposed speed limit changes.
Local roading advocates backed Noon's council call but said the Government and the transport agency needed to be doing the same thing for state highways.
According to transport agency research, Bay of Plenty people were more likely to oppose speed limit reductions and also more likely to think the roads were safe for themselves.
A Tauranga City Council spokeswoman said lowering speeds on roads shared by different types of vehicles and users - cars, buses, cyclists - was important for safety.
Spokeswomen at both the Tauranga and Western Bay councils said they regularly assessed roads in the local network for safety and made changes where necessary.
Western Bay council has begun a review of speed limits and planned a district-wide review in 2020.
Western Bay council group manager of infrastructure Gary Allis said drivers needed to drive to the conditions, not necessarily the 100km/h speed limit.
Explore the interactive map
Allis said a high percentage of council roads were not suitable to travel at 100km/h and
"this will be part of our speed review on local roads." However, this review was pending the outcome of the transport agency's speed limit review of SH2 between Katikati and Tauranga.
In October last year, the NZTA proposed dropping the speed limits on that stretch of highway to between 50km/h and 80km/h - a move experts said could prevent one death a year.
Fix the Bloody Road campaigner Andrew Hollis said the reason roads in the region were failing in safety was "years of neglect" and a lack of spending on infrastructure.
"In the short term, speed limits can be dropped, but where do you draw the line? We would end up driving 40km/h from Tauranga to Auckland on degraded, unsafe roads."
Joint Road Safety Committee chairwoman and Western Bay district councillor Margaret Murray-Benge said reducing speed for safety was "just an excuse" and the Government was "letting us down" with roading infrastructure.
When it came to changing road speeds, Tauranga City Council followed transport agency guidelines for direction. However, Western Bay did not.
Tauranga City Council calculated a road's risk rating from crash history, hazards and traffic volume to create a road safety score. From this, the council recommends an appropriate and safe speed.
NZTA safety and environment acting director Niclas Johansson said, in many cases, speed reviews were initiated because of community feedback or concern.
Matapihi Rd residents requested a speed reduction from 80km/h to 60km/h after the death of a 5-year-old girl after a crash.
Matapihi Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Greg Milne said the speed limit change had made a huge difference to the safety of the community.
From the transport agency data, Matapihi Rd was flagged as one that was assessed to drop down to 50km/h. However, Milne said this was too low and 60km/h was working for them.
The transport agency will be targeting the 10 per cent of roads nationwide where the risk of death and serious injury is the greatest and is not looking at blanket reductions.