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Surprise at speed ticket numbers from school zones

Surprise at speed ticket numbers from school zones
Of the 1700 speeding infringements issued in the Ashburton District between July and December, only 13 were for breaching the 30kph urban school speed zones - and all 13 were on Walnut Avenue. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

A councillor says he's surprised that just 13 speeding tickets have been issued in 30kmh Ashurbton's 30kph school zones in the past six month.

District councillor Richard Wilson said he thought the number of infringements would be higher since the urban school 30kph speed zones were introduced in the district.

Police issued 1744 speeding infringement notices in the Ashburton District between July 1 and December 13, 2023, according to figures obtained by Ashburton Guardian/Local Democracy Reporting under the Official Information Act.

Only 13 (0.7%) of those were for drivers exceeding the 30kph urban school speed limits introduced by the Ashburton District Council in July.

“[Police] haven’t been hitting it very hard then,” Wilson said.

Wilson earler raised concerns that lower speeds would increase speeding fines, and “someone caught doing 42km/h at 10pm past a school is not the spirit of why we are going to 30kph”.

Director of road policing Superintendent Steve Greally said 11 ticketes were issued in November and the other two in December, and all 13 were on Walnut Ave.

“No drivers were detected exceeding the 30km/h limit in the school zone in excess of 40kph above the limit — the point at which a driver’s licence is immediately suspended for 28 days,” Greally said.

The introduction of the lower speed limits around schools didn’t specifically result in any increase in infringements being issued, he said.

"Any driver travelling at a speed over the posted speed limit is speeding, and police may take enforcement action accordingly.”

The figures show only a few people have been ticketed for breaching the speed limits, but Wilson and his fellow councillors feel the speed limits are not working, with drivers ignoring the speed limits outside of school hours, and have called for a review.

The council plans to review the 30kph school speed zones in February.

Wilson said he hoped council could find a “practical solution”, which the existing legislation did not allow.

The Ashburton council was one of the first in the country to prepare and implement its Interim Speed Management Plan and have “paid the price for being proactive”, Wilson said.

When the council was implementing its Interim Speed Management Plan, it only had the option of permanent speed zones or expensive electronic variable signs.

The councillors had wanted to have the 30kph urban school zones time be time restricted but couldn’t accept the price tag of the electronic signs – estimated to be around $10,000 per sign.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown announced in December the Government is amending the speed limit rules, including allowing variable speed limits on roads approaching schools during pick-up and drop-off times, rather than permanent reductions.

In a letter to councils in December, he said: “As part of the Government’s 100-day commitments, I intend to replace the current rule.”

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said he was pleased to see “a bit of commonsense” around the rules, but the changes are unlikely to happen in time for the council's review next month.

By Jonathan Leask