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Whanganui District Council signs off speed limit reductions around schools

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Brunswick School students (from left) James McDonald, Xavier Tamani-Bullock, Indy Jackson and Keira Fletcher are happy the speed limit on Campbell Rd will be reduced from 100km/h to 30km/h. Photo / Bevan Conley

Whanganui District Council has voted to reduce speed limits around schools, with some rural speeds dropping from 100km/h to 30km/h.

They will be phased in by June 30, 2027.

Council transport manager Damian Wood said the Government had not drafted legislation on speed limit setting and it was not expected until later this year.

Traditionally, the council would not sign off policies or bylaws while that process took place and that had originally been the plan, he said.

“In this case, there is only a Government announcement with no fixed dates for implementation or consultation.”

Speaking at a council strategy and policy meeting, Wood said the economic and travel time impacts of lowering the speed limits around schools were “less than minor”.

The council undertook public consultation on the proposed speed limit changes in February/March. Of the 146 public submissions received, 81 per cent backed the changes.

Speed limit reductions at some Whanganui schools, such as Faith City, Castlecliff and St Anthony’s, would be in place only during drop-off and pick-up times and variable speed signs would be used.

That system was already in place at Westmere School and Mosston School, Wood said.

He said the council had budgeted for new signage in its 10-year plan for 2024-2034.

“Given that it’s areas affecting our most vulnerable citizens, we would look to roll that out as promptly as we could afford.”

The “highest priority changes” were around schools.

Rob Vinsen was the only councillor to vote against the proposals. Photo / Bevan Conley
Rob Vinsen was the only councillor to vote against the proposals. Photo / Bevan Conley

Permanent speed reductions within retirement villages were also approved, with all decreasing from 50km/h to 10km/h or 20km/h.

Councillor Rob Vinsen repeatedly questioned the need for speed reductions on roads near certain schools, such as part of Peakes Rd (near St John’s Hill School), which would permanently decrease to 30km/h, not just during school drop-offs and pick-ups.

“I can’t vote in favour of this, not because I don’t believe in a 30km/h limit outside schools, but it’s the way it’s being applied,” Vinsen said.

He was the only councillor to vote against the proposals.

Wood said the changes had overwhelming support from the community and were based on sound engineering advice and traffic safety.

There will also be reductions on roads the council has deemed to have “inappropriate speed limits”.

They include Roberts Ave hill (from 170m north of the Paterson St junction to the end of the road), which will reduce from 100km/h to 50km/h, and parts of Airport Rd and Landguard Rd, which will decrease from 100km/h to 30km/h past Whanganui Airport.

Mayor Andrew Tripe and council chief executive David Langford had pushed for traffic calming measures on NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi-controlled roads such as Great North Rd/State Highway 3 and State Highway 4 through Upokongaro, as had the previous mayor and chief executive, Wood said.

In the current financial year, a counter on the Upokongaro Bridge recorded 44,739 users, a 13.4 per cent increase from the year before.

“The process had been slow,” he said.

“With a clear community voice requesting change, now is the time for council to once again carry the voice of the community to central government and demand some action.”

The council unanimously voted to communicate to NZTA Waka Kotahi “in the strongest possible terms” for speed reductions around schools near state highways and for pedestrian protection measures on State Highway 3/Great North Rd.

Tripe said he was “always a man in a hurry” but safety was more important.

“I hear some voices about some inconsistencies [in the bylaw] but it’s pretty hard to have different speed limits at different times.

“I would rather just stick with one single speed limit 24/7 and know in my head what that looks like and have that knowledge all the time.”

The council’s traffic and speed limits bylaw comes into effect on July 1 and the speed reductions will be phased in by June 30, 2027.

Mike Tweed is an assistant news director and multimedia journalist at the Whanganui Chronicle. Since starting in March 2020, he has dabbled in everything from sport to music. At present his focus is local government, primarily the Whanganui District Council.

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