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A wholesale reduction in speed limits could do more harm than good by further isolating regional New Zealand and weakening the economy, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

Media reports today reveal the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) estimates 87 per cent of our roads have speed limits that are too high for the conditions. Its mapping tool suggests many roads with a 100kmh speed limit should be reduced to as low as 60kmh.

“We all want safer roads, and while reducing speed limits across the board might be the easiest thing to do, it is too simplistic and would have huge implications for our way of life,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Slower roads would impact regional New Zealand severely. Drastic speed limit cuts might mean it would take 45 minutes longer to get to New Plymouth from Hamilton, for example. In terms of isolation, that’s the equivalent of shifting the city another 60 kilometres out to sea.

“There would also be significant economic costs. If it suddenly took 30 per cent longer to move freight the same distance our national productivity would drop substantially, freight costs would rise and our international competitiveness would fall.

“A smaller economy would invest less in healthcare, for example, ultimately costing lives. Houses would be more expensive to build and the price of food would go up. These broader implications need to be considered fully. 

“Over the past three years the road toll has risen, and we should absolutely be focused on understanding why. But it’s worth remembering that speed alone is not the cause.

“Other factors include drugged-driving, enforcement of current laws around drink-driving, not wearing seat belts, the quality of our roads, driver distraction and a huge increase in tourism.

“The Government should reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads, and deal with its blind spot on drugged drivers. It has resolutely ignored the issue for nearly 18 months and it is appalling that the Minister in charge of road safety, Julie Anne Genter, is opposed to roadside drug testing because of her Green Party’s liberal approach to drugs.

“If the Government is truly concerned about saving lives on our roads, then why did the Budget show a cut, in real terms, to road safety policing?”

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