Ashburton’s school speed zones have become an ‘I told you so moment’ for Grant McFaul.
He described the permanent 30kph urban school zones as “preposterous” and pleaded with the Ashburton District Council not to “turn Ashburton into turtle town” during the consultation in November last year.
He had said if the limits were introduced as a permanent speed zone “the council is actually creating a problem, not solving a problem as it will not be adhered to outside of school hours.”
Fast forward to August, one month after the 30kph zones were introduced, and the council is reconsidering its decision.
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown doesn’t think they are working and called for a report into their effectiveness after six months, to “see if it’s workable and, if not, what we can do to make it more workable”.
McFaul acknowledged the council was being “hamstrung by dopey legislation” and hoped there could be a change to the land transport rules to allow for some common sense to prevail.
The common sense approach would be having the 30kph signposted for the specific hours it’s required without the need for a permanent restriction or expensive electronic variable speed signs, McFaul said, but it is not an option for the council under the current rules.
“Nobody objects to the lower speed limits when children are coming and going from school, but the whole thing is nuts.
“It never does and never will work outside of school hours.
“They should just be able to modify the signs just to put the times on the signs.”
That wasn’t an option the way the laws are written and the council only had two options — a permanent speed zone or the $10,000 per sign variable speed zones, and the councillors went with the permanent option outside urban schools.
Chief executive Hamish Riach said the slower speeds have been mandated by the Government and “changing engrained driving habits is hard”.
“We’re aware there has been comment about the need for any restrictions outside school hours and it does feel very slow at times, but increasing the safety for everyone around our schools is at the heart of the change and that feels like a worthy overarching goal.
“We will be reviewing the situation in February next year and one possible outcome could be variable speed zones outside some schools, but that will come with the associated cost.
“Getting signs to comply with the new Land Transport Rule around speed limits was important, but if it is not working locally then the review will reveal that.”
In the meantime, “the permanent slow zones remain” he said.
By Jonathan Leask