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Mayor welcomes "common sense" speed changes

Mayor welcomes "common sense" speed changes
CAPTION: Transport Minister Simeon Brown says the Government is amending speed limit rules as part of its commitment to stop blanket speed limit reductions, including the ability to implement variable speed limits around schools, rather than permanent reductions the Ashburton District Council was forced into earlier this year. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Ashburton’s mayor is celebrating “a bit of common sense” after the Government announced it's ending blanket speed limit reductions.

The council has been under fire for introducing permanent 30kph school speed zones in July.

But on Tuesday, Transport Minister Simeon Brown announced the Government is reversing those speed limit rules.

This included allowing variable speed limits on roads approaching schools during pick up and drop off times, rather than permanent reductions.

The Ashburton District Council wanted to take this variable speed approach in July, but couldn't under the Land Transport rule.

Under the new Government's direction, the council was now set to review the decision in February.

“Common sense prevails,” Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said.

“This is what we wanted to do but the law wouldn’t allow it without the dearer option of the flashing variable speed limit signs.”

The 30kph zones were introduced as part of a national plan to standardise speed limits around schools.

Ashburton was among the first councils in the South Island to make the move, including the speed zones in the Interim Speed Management Plan that was certified by Waka Kotahi in July.

The new Government directive means the 30kph school speed zones can be altered from permanent zones to time-specific zones, without the need for the expensive electronic variable speed signs - at an estimated $10,000 per sign.

The Minister of Transport changes are in line with what the council and community wanted all along, mayor Brown said.

He commended the new Government for “tidying up” the rules around school speed zones to be implemented when the children, and the greater risk, were present.

“We’ll have a look at the new rules and get it done as soon as we can.”

Minister Brown said he was contacting all road controlling authorities to notify them of the changes and advise them that work has begun on the new rule.

The previous government’s Land Transport rule had speed limits reduced using a blanket approach.

Minister Brown said this ignored economic impacts and the views of road users and local communities.

Rangitata MP James Meager said the announcement was good news for Mid and South Canterbury and ensured a common sense approach to road speed limits.

"Blanket speed limits that are in the wrong places lower productivity, impacts our ability to get to school and to sport, and don’t improve road safety.

"Where there are places where lower speed limits are appropriate, and are supported by the community, we will support this, but this should be a balanced approach."

By Jonathan Leask