Speed limit drop delayed by Govt, schools angered

West Rolleston Primary School pupils wait to cross Dunns Crossing Rd. Photo: supplied
West Rolleston Primary School pupils wait to cross Dunns Crossing Rd. Photo: supplied
Schools are furious they will be left waiting again for 30km/h speed limits and want new Government Selwyn MP Nicola Grigg to step in. 

The new National, Act, New Zealand First coalition Government sent a letter to all councils advising them to pause work on speed limits until the Government has developed its new speed limit setting rules with NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi. 

Twenty-six schools in Selwyn would have had either variable speed limits or permanent 30km/h limits added in the council’s speed management plan, with some of the changes made before schools reopened in the new year. 

Two of the schools left waiting are Lincoln Primary School and West Rolleston Primary School. Both have been waiting years for changes and now have no idea when the lower speed limits will arrive. 

Both schools have 50km/h speed limits outside their schools and want that permanently replaced with 30km/h limits. 

Lincoln principal Chris Nord and West Rolleston principal Sylvia Fidow are calling on Grigg to step in and get the changes made as soon as possible. 

“As a local MP, I would love to see her (Grigg) put the needs of the children in Selwyn first,” Fidow said. 

Both principals were disappointed in the Government’s new direction. 

“It was really disappointing to get that communication from the council,” Nord said. 

Said Fidow: “I was shocked when I found out they had paused work on the changes.” 

Grigg told Selwyn Times stopping blanket speed limit reductions and starting work on replacing the speed limits rule to balance safety with efficiency is a priority in the Government’s 100-day plan. 

“Work has already begun on a new rule, which will ensure that when speed limits are set, economic impacts and the views of road users and local communities are considered, alongside safety,” Grigg said. 

She said work has started on the variable speed limits around schools. 

“Safety around schools is a top priority for this Government and we have begun work on the new speed limit rule to ensure variable slower speed limits on roads approaching schools during pick up and drop off times when there is heightened risk.” 

Fidow did not think variable speed limits were going to work and wanted a permanent 30km/h speed limit. 

Grigg did not respond to both schools’ concerns about wanting permanent lower speeds instead of variable limits. 

She also did not say whether the council would receive any Government funding for the increased cost of installing variable speed limit signs. 

In last week’s council meeting, Rolleston Ward councillor Nicole Reid was also critical of the Government’s direction for speed limits. 

“I can’t believe when we are finally able to progress these speed limits another setback has been put in place by the current Government,” Reid said. 

Reid went on the attack against Minister of Transport Simeon Brown. 

“Some facts for the current Government, particularly Simeon Brown. Increasing productivity by increasing speed limits will not work in the long term. It is a fact lowering speed limits saves lives. It also is a fact that building more roads leads to more congestion which in turn means traffic will go slower.” 

Reid’s biggest concern was speeds around schools. 

“These policies mean more children will be driven to and from school which has long-term consequences,” she said. 

Also opposing the new direction was Rolleston Ward councillor Sophie McInnes. 

“This new Government promised us evidence-based policy and costed economic efficiencies. They have literally asked us to go back and do it again in a few months, which is ridiculous,” McInnes said. 

McInnes and Reid said they were unsure if they would raise the issue with Grigg or Brown. 

Despite the Government halting the changes, fewer proposed speed limit changes were likely to have been implemented in Selwyn anyway, following public consultation on the council’s speed management plan. 

In the report that never got tabled, it had recommended implementing the changes for schools and town centres but deferring work on district-wide changes to many rural roads, due to a lack of community support. 

For rural roads, 90.2 per cent (911) responders to the council consultation wanted the speed limits to stay at 100km/h and for urban roads, 69.9 per cent (679) wanted the limits to stay at 50km/h or 60km/h.