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Joy for SH35 speed limit campaigners

COMMUNITY campaigners along State Highway 35 are celebrating, after roading authorities agreed to their calls for lower speed limits.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has confirmed it is reducing speed limits for the township and beach sections of State Highway 35 between Gisborne and Te Puia Springs.

From Tuesday September 8, the new permanent speed limits for Tamarau and Okitu will be 60kmh (down from 80kmh and 70kmh, respectively), and for Makorori to Pouawa the new limit will be 80kmh (down from 100kmh). The new seasonal speed limit (from December 20 to February 1) for Turihaua and Pouawa beaches will be 60kmh.

Communities at Okitu, Tamarau, Wainui and Makorori have campaigned for more than a year for speed limits to be lowered.

Last year, a petition launched by the group garnered 3073 signatures, submitted either on paper or online.

SH35 Communities spokeswoman Veronika Lambert yesterday said the new speed limits were very welcome news.

“Getting this done was a huge community effort and together we made the change happen. Our petition to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency showed thousands of people felt that the speed limits were too dangerous and a reduction was necessary.

“I would have preferred a speed limit of 50kmh for Tamarau and Okitu because this lower speed reduces the risk of injury and death significantly but under the current NZTA guidelines this seems not possible.

“However, guidelines can change over time and I am hopeful there will be another speed limit reduction for us and other communities like ours in the future. That said, the new speed limits will make our communities safer for locals, visitors and all road users.

“I am positive that as a result of this we will see fewer accidents, and fewer severe accidents, and I truly hope lives will be saved. Thank you so much to everyone who has made this happen.”

NZTA regional relationships director Emma Speight said the highway was one of the highest risk roads in the region.

“Between 2009 and July 2019 there were 377 crashes between Gisborne and Te Puia Springs, with nine fatalities and 46 serious injuries.

“No matter what causes a crash, speed is always a factor in the severity. Speed can be the difference between walking away or being carried away from a crash. By making speed limits safer, we can help prevent people from being killed or seriously injured in crashes on this road.

“The feedback we received from the community was strongly supportive of the safer speeds we proposed for the township and beach sections of State Highway 35 between Gisborne and Te Puia Springs.

“Along with our technical assessment, which found the current speed limits weren't safe for the road environment, we've used the feedback to make our decision to go ahead with the proposed speed limit changes.

“Combined with the number of vehicles, including heavy vehicles, driving through areas where people live or are enjoying popular recreational sites, ensuring speed limits are safe and appropriate is the right thing to do for the communities who live and work along the East Coast.”

The setting of the permanent speed limits followed engagement with the police, the AA, and the Road Transport Forum, and consultation with the public.

“Based on the feedback we received on the proposed speed limit change for Te Puia Springs township and further analysis of our technical data, we've decided to reconsider the proposed speed limit on this section.

“We are instead looking to re-consult with a new proposed speed limit and will be coming back to the community with more information in the coming months,” Ms Speight said.

WE DID IT: Speed limit reduction campaigners, from left, Rachael Ormsby, Tim Willis, Juliette Gottlieb, Veronika Lambert, Tanya Jackson, Vanisree Singh and Silke Steffen. Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. Harawira Pearless says:

    Well done Veronica, Rachel ma.
    Rawe kē, me te aha mo ōu kōtou manaakitanga mō ngā hūnau ō te Takiwā nei.
    Well done for taking the bull by the horns and effecting a great solution to a serious challenge that affects us all.
    Tēna Kōtou…..Thank you all.