Sat, Feb 10, 2024 7:22 AM

Review of SH6 speed reduction ‘trial’ never happened


Maia Hart

A review into 90kph speed limits introduced on Marlborough's State Highway 6 in 2020 never happened, despite the New Zealand Transport Agency saying this would be done in June last year.

“The reduction of the speed limit from 100kph to 90kph was only a two-year trial,” Marlborough Roads senior transport planner Laura Skilton told the council’s assets and services committee last week.

“That trial finished in June 2023, so the trial was actually finished seven months ago.

“They [NZTA] haven't done anything ... as a council officer I've been chasing up with them. I get no replies.”

The New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) announced changes to speed limits on SH6, between Nelson and Blenheim, following consultation in 2019.

Most of the 100kph route was dropped to 90kph, but some sections of the highway reduced to 80kph.

The Whangamoa Saddle, parts of Atawhai, and the Pelorus Bridge reduced to 60kph.

State Highway 6 is the main highway between Nelson and Blenheim. Photo: Ricky Wilson/Stuff

At the time, NZTA said the 90kph zones would be reviewed again in June 2023.

An NZTA spokesperson confirmed this had not happened, and could not confirm when a review would take place.

However, the spokesperson said early indicators from monitoring showed the reduced speed limits had produced an “encouraging” trend.

“Since the speed limit changes were implemented, the number of people being killed or seriously injured on this stretch of road has reduced by 75 per cent,” the spokesperson said.

In the 10 years before the speed limits were changed, 19 people died and 86 people were seriously injured on the highway, the spokesperson said.

In the two years following the speed limit change, one person died, and four people suffered severe injuries.

The spokesperson said NZTA would continue to monitor the 90kph sections, and the speeds would be reviewed again in the future to ensure they were appropriate.

“At this stage, no date has been set for the 90kph sections to be reviewed again.”

The speed limit on the Whangamoas was reduced to 60kmh. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

Transport Minister Simeon Brown announced changes to the Setting of Speed Limits Rule in December.

The spokesperson said work was underway to develop a new rule, and NZTA expected to receive more information from the Ministry of Transport later this year.

“This will inform our next steps for speed management planning, and we will share more information after decisions have been made.”

Meanwhile, as part of changes to the rule announced by Simeon, the requirement for councils to develop Speed Management Plans became discretionary, rather than mandatory.

Laura was presenting to the council’s assets and services committee last week about Marlborough’s Speed Management Plan when she revealed she could not get an answer out of NZTA about the SH6 speed limits.

While SH6 speed limits were separate to the Speed Management Plan, Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Barbara Faulls said they still received submissions about SH6.

Some of those submissions used a lot of “fairly interesting language”, Barbara said.

Laura, who worked for Marlborough Roads and therefore the council, also had a manager at NZTA. She said that manager was aware of the situation with SH6.

“Again, I still haven't heard anything back.

“So there are other people talking, and I will continue to prod, I sent another email yesterday.”

She said she had also reminded NZTA it was their requirement to signpost SH6 side roads.

“All the side roads are still speed limit 100kph, yet a driver turning from SH6 into the side road is not aware of this because they haven't put up the signage,” she said.

“I accept that it was a trial initially, but the trial is now complete. I'm trying to get answers for council.”

PHOTO 4: Tasman deputy mayor Stuart Bryant. Photo: Braden Fastier/Stuff

Stuart Bryant, Tasman deputy mayor and Nelson Tasman regional transport committee chair, said if NZTA said they would review it, they should follow through with that process.

He said he was under the impression that once the speed limit was lowered “that was it”.

“I can understand that there’s probably a little bit of reluctance to [review] it ... because there have been lower fatalities with that section of the highway,” he said.

“We travel reasonably regularly both that way and down State Highway 63 ... we have used it a number of times. The overall trip time isn’t a lot of difference.”

Three years on, he said the speed limit reductions were not talked about as much as they were at the start, but still came up in conversation with those most affected.

“Some are of the view that the difference between 90kmh and 100kmh is a lot ... I guess it’s the overall impact that counts really.”

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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