Residents of a Tasman village want their speed limit dropped, despite the Government putting an end to blanket speed reductions.
Ngātīmoti resident Patrick Shortley said the speed limit has been a concern for locals since he moved to the area 30 years ago.
Shortley, a committee member of the Motueka Valley Association, said reducing the speed limit through Ngātīmoti from 100km/h to 60km/h is a “no brainer”.
The village is busier than drivers might expect, with a 2.5km stretch of the Motueka Valley Highway home to a school, hall, reserve, fire station, community rooms, café, three swimming holes, more than 40 homes, and three intersections.
The road also sees high levels of freight from the forestry and dairy industries and, in the warmer months, many caravans, boat trailers and other “bulky” vehicles passing within 2m of the school fence.
“We’ve been extremely fortunate up until now that there have been very few serious incidents on that road.”
It’s the area outside the school, where the road briefly straightens and is sometimes used to overtake slower vehicles, which is a particular concern for Shortley.
“[Some drivers] plant their boot. It’s understandable that they would attempt to do that, but it’s really not a safe place to overtake,” he said.
Andy McFarland, the presiding member of the Ngātīmoti School board of trustees, shared Shortley’s concerns.
“Most of our children are on the bus, but it is always a little bit worrying when you’ve got kids playing on one side of the fence and cars doing 100km/h on the other side of the fence,” he said.
“We have never had any trouble in the past, but it’s just the possibility of maybe if a child did get out at some stage.”
A section of the Great Taste Trail is being built on the opposite side of the road to the school, which could provide some students a safe route to bike to school.
“It would be good to have [speeds] a bit slower if kids were using the bicycle lane or crossing over.”
McFarland preferred a permanent speed limit reduction rather than a variable zone, where speeds are only lower during school hours.
Reducing the speed limit to 60km/h along the 2.5km stretch of the road, which encompasses most of Ngātīmoti, would barely impact travel times, Shortley added.
He has timed himself driving the “narrow, windy road” as fast as he was comfortable and then compared with how long it took him to drive the road at 60km/h. The difference was less than 30 seconds.
“You simply can’t drive the Motueka Valley Highway at 100km/h.”
Now that consultation has started on Nelson Tasman’s draft joint speed management plan, both men are confident that the village will finally get a speed limit reduction despite the policy shift from the Government.
Under new Government policy, economic impacts, travel times, and the views of road users and local communities should be considered when changing speed limits, in addition to safety.
This guidance was reflected in a Tasman District Council release last month which said that the Joint Regional Transport Committee still wants to consider community views on speed limits.
“We need to focus on those discreet roads and streets in Nelson and Tasman that are adjacent to schools or have other localised safety issues enabling a good case for change,” said committee chairman and Tasman’s deputy mayor Stuart Bryant.
Community consultation on the region’s draft speed management plan is open until February 29.
The final plan is expected to be adopted by the end of April, with phase one of any speed limit changes expected to be implemented by July 1.
Shortley urged residents to have their say here.
“We need more sensible speeds through the villages. It’s not to try and restrict people’s freedom, it’s about safety.”
By Max Frethey, Local Democracy Reporter
Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air