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SH51 questions

Questions that affect both state highways

SH5 questions

SH51 questions

Why is no speed limit reduction proposed between St. Georges Road and Ruahapia Road?

Currently the SH51 Waipatu Marae Safety Improvement Project is changing the road layout along this section of road with seal widening and a flush median being installed. These safety improvements will enable safer turning and vehicle separation through this area.

Once safety improvements are complete and drivers have had time to get used to the new speed limits Waka Kotahi will review compliance and look to complete safety improvements near Bay Espresso. This will include on-road parking at Bay Espresso and improving the line marking.

What about the proposed safety improvements between Ellison Street and the Tutaekuri River Bridge?

As part of the delivery of New Zealand’s road safety strategy, Road to Zero, Waka Kotahi has identified roads where safety improvements could make a big difference in saving lives.

Feasibility studies are underway to assess the scope, cost, risk and timeframes of the safety improvements. These studies will inform the decision of whether to progress the project to the next stages.

The proposed improvements between Ellison Street and the Tutaekuri River bridge, including the Awatoto Intersection are currently in feasibility phase.

These possible improvements could include central barriers, side protection barriers and improvements to the use and functionality of the existing beach access. As part of this we are also looking at the intersection layout at Ellison Street, Awatoto Road and Waitangi Road. If approved for construction funding, these safety improvements will happen over the next two NLTP periods or next eight years.

During the feasibility study Waka Kotahi may engage with Council, Iwi partners, and other key stakeholders for insight into risks or issues to help inform the decision.

What will you do with the passing lane on SH51?

The passing lane will remain in place and after the new speed is implemented speed counts will be done to monitor compliance. This information will feed into the feasibility study being done on further safety infrastructure improvements for this corridor.

Will there be anything done to improve safety on SH51/Awatoto Road intersection?

We are looking at long-term safety improvements to further transform SH51 Napier to Hastings, this includes the SH51 / Awatoto Road intersection. Other improvements would complement the speed proposal and may include a wide centreline, more roadside barriers at high risk locations and intersection transformation works (e.g. roundabouts).

What is happening at the Waipatu Road end of SH51?

There is the SH51 Waipatu Marae Safety Improvement Project which is improving the Waipatu area, improving connections with the city centre by providing shared pathways for pedestrians and cyclists and improve stormwater management.

There is also road widening and a flush median being installed, enabling safer turning and vehicle separation. Works have been taking place since June/July last year and are expected to be completed in the coming months.

SH51/Waipatu Marae Safety Improvement Project(external link)

Why did we consult on 60km/h in the section around Kenilworth Road to just past St George’s Road and decide on this speed?

We consulted on 60km/h in this area because this was the best reflection of the technical assessment recommendations. This is largely due to the look and feel of the section which covers infrastructure risk aspects such as access density, road alignment, road marking and land-use.

Our decision to go with the recommended speed from the technical assessment took into account feedback from both the community and all our stakeholders. It also took into account the infrastructure upgrade that Hastings District Council have been undertaking. There was both support and opposition for a speed drop. We are aware some stakeholders would like this speed to be dropped further. We have taken this into consideration and will monitor speeds after the implementation to see what the level of compliance is amongst drivers.

The chosen speed reflects the current environment and we know this environment may change over the next few years. When that happens we will relook at the speed as required.

Questions that affect both state highways

How do you decide where the new speed signs will go?

According to the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits any new signposts must be placed in the correct spot to ensure a speed limit is enforceable and to encourage compliance.

The Rule requires the road controlling authority to provide a speed limit sign no more than 20 meters from the point of the road in which the speed limit changes.

If we want to change the placement of the speed limit sign by more than 20m, we need to go back to the community to consult on that change.

Why are you only changing the speed on SH51, when you also consulted on sections of SH5 at the same time?

To make the most informed decision, we have had to carefully consider the information we have received from the community and stakeholders alongside our safety assessments for both of these roads.

A decision was made to complete the review of SH51 first as we had a smaller number of submissions and consequently it will take less time to work through than the SH5 review process.

Should our final decision be to proceed with speed limit changes on the parts of the SH5 which we consulted on, we would expect to announce the decision and introduce any changes by the end of this year.

Why are you reviewing the speed limits in Hawke’s Bay?

We’re reviewing speed limits on State Highway 5 and 51 in Hawke’s Bay to make them safer for all road users.

Over the past ten years, more than 3200 people have died in road crashes in New Zealand, and an estimated 23,000 have been seriously injured.

Between 2010 to 2019, there was a total of 250 injuries from crashes on SH5 Taupō to Napier, which included 16 deaths and 75 serious injuries.

During the same period there was a total of 151 injuries from crashes within the corridor length on State Highway 51, which included five deaths and 28 serious injuries.

Deaths and serious injuries should not be tolerated – they are not inevitable. To reduce the number of people dying or being seriously injured on our roads we’re creating a safe system that is designed to account for human error – a system where people do not die or get seriously injured on the road when they make a mistake, or when someone else makes a mistake. Making speeds safer is one part of the safe system and is something we can do quickly to make the roads safer for everyone.

No matter what causes a crash, the speed at impact can be the difference between being killed, injured, or walking away unharmed. This is especially true when people who walk or bike are involved.

Having speed limits that are safe and appropriate is one of the most important ways we can help people get to where they need to go safely.

When speeds are safe for the road, simple mistakes don’t need to end in tragedy. Speed reduces the opportunity to react to a mistake. The faster you’re travelling, the less time you have to react to a mistake. As your speed increases:

  • the distance you need to stop increases
  • there is a greater probability that you will be going too fast if you meet an unexpected change in road conditions
  • there is a greater chance that other road users will misjudge how fast you are travelling.

*over a 10-year period, from 2010–2019. Data supplied by CAS (Crash Analysis System)

How did you decide on the proposed new speed limits?

Between April and June 2021 Waka Kotahi formally consulted with the community about proposed speed changes on SH51 from Marine Parade to Waipatu, and on the windy, middle section of SH5 (section 2 on our map). At the same time, we asked for peoples’ broader views about whether the existing speeds on the Eskdale end of SH5, and the Rangitaiki straight section of SH5, are safe and appropriate.

Reviewing speed limits involves a number of steps including technical assessments and consultation.

A technical assessment determines what a safe and appropriate speed for the road should be, and if it is out of step with current speed limits.

During the assessment, we looked at the previous crash history, the average speed people are travelling at, the number of cars and trucks using the road each day, what is happening around the road in terms of housing, urban development, businesses, and other activity on the road.

Following this, we spoke to key stakeholders including councils, the AA and RTA and got their feedback before starting formal consultation on the proposed new speeds for SH51 and the winding parts of SH5.

When reviewing some corridors, we carry out community engagement too. Occasionally, we skip this stage when the risk is too high to road users and we need immediate feedback on the proposed speed change. This is the case for SH51 and section 2 of SH5.

Formal consultation

During this consultation stage, we ask the public and stakeholders for any additional information that might have an impact on our final decision.

We consider any additional information gathered through consultation alongside our technical assessment to make a decision on the proposed speed limit changes.

It’s important to note that consultation for proposed speed limit changes is not a vote – it’s about seeking valuable local and community input so that we can consider wider factors and context in our decisions.

Speed review process

Setting new speed limits is a legal process, and Waka Kotahi, as a Road Controlling Authority (RCA), is responsible for setting new speed limits on New Zealand’s state highways.

We follow the Speed management guide, which is a national framework that helps RCAs (Road Controlling Authority) make informed, accurate and consistent speed management decisions in their communities.

We also need to adhere to the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of the RCAs for reviewing and setting speed limits.

Speed management guide [PDF, 7.4 MB]
Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017

Why have you gone straight to consultation on some parts of these reviews and not others?

These sections of highway have been chosen either because communities are already calling for speeds to be lowered in some places, or because they have a high crash rate, and we know making changes like lowering speed will result in fewer deaths and serious injuries (DSIs) quickly. These changes will save lives.

We know that we need to do something now to ensure the road is safer for all road users.

Let’s get technical - How did Waka Kotahi calculate the travel time increase for the Hawke’s Bay Speed Review?

There have been questions raised on what the travel time will be. We have several research-based findings we can apply, but none of them can tell us with 100 percent certainty, what each person will experience.

Because of this we work with mean speeds which are averages. We also provide a range for the estimated travel time increases with the assumption that drivers are staying at or below the posted (and proposed) speed limit.

We measure travel time increase in two ways to find out what the range of the estimated increase will be.

Method 1: the time difference between the mean speed to the proposed speed limit.
This method assumes that where people are currently driving above 80km/h, they will now drive at 80km/h and, where they are driving below 80km/h their speed will remain unchanged.

Method 2: The time difference between the posted speed limit to proposed speed limit.
We can also apply a more generic international research model, read below for more information on this.

Travel time increase in initial consultation material

The information in the initial material for consultation applied both methods (one and two above) on how we measure the increase in time travel. The combination of the two established the lower impact at 41 seconds and the upper impact of 11 minutes.

Technical info:

  • Data was sourced from Google.
  • It used a two-week time period in 2020.
  • The mean speed was established over four sections.
  • The overall mean speed was calculated at 81km/h.

Reviewed calculations

We have re-calculated the likely impact on travel times.

What has been done differently?

  • We have used different data, this time sourced from TomTom.
  • We have used a larger time period of three months in 2020 to measure speeds.
  • We have made the analysis sections much smaller from four sections over the 76km length to every 2km (38 equal length sections).

What impact does this have on the result?

Because we are using different data sources, different time periods and different analysis lengths we would expect some variation in the outcome. The mean speeds of the individual 2km length ranged from 59 to 95km/h. This range is different to the Google data with larger lengths.  

The result is a new mean speed and difference in travel time increase

The new mean speed from the additional data southbound is 84km/h and northbound 85km/h.

The survey speeds of both TomTom and Google represent the average person driving on the corridor. Half of drivers on the corridor experience faster journey times than average for reasons such as good weather and lighter traffic volumes. Equally half of drivers will travel at a lower speed because of higher traffic volumes, poor weather or a preference for travelling at lower speed.

Change in likely travel time

The additional analysis with different and more detailed data suggests the increase in travel time northbound will likely be about 3.5 minutes and 4 minutes southbound.

Upper impact of travel time stays the same

Based on the increase between the posted speed limit of 100km/h to proposed speed limit of 80km/h the increase would be just over 11 minutes for the entire proposed length of 76km.

International research methodology

International research shows we could see a reduction of about 8km/h in the mean speed for a 20km/h change in speed limit.
Applying this methodology gives an estimated travel time increase of 6 minutes.

While this likely applies on the sections with higher mean speeds, where the mean speed is close to or below the proposed speed limit it is unlikely that we would get this size of a reduction, this means we can’t not predict what the exact change in travel time will be from this methodology.

For more information on this international research see
Annual Review of Public Health: Speed Limits, Enforcement, and Health Consequences (Vol. 33:225-238 (Volume publication date April 2012)(external link)

Taking this all into account – what can you expect?

We believe that on people will experience a range between 4 to 11 minutes increase in journey time on State Highway 5. 

Won’t lower speed limits harm the economy, especially for moving freight?

Each death and serious injury has a devastating and wide-reaching impact.

It also has a social cost to New Zealand of $84 million per week, or nearly $4.7 billion a year. That includes things like loss of life, quality of life, medical costs, legal costs and damages to vehicles.

So, while lower speed limits would have a small impact on travel time, this pales in comparison with the potential to save lives, prevent serious injuries and reduce the economic cost from crashes.

We commissioned a research project that found a drop in maximum speed travelled along certain routes from 100km/h to 80km/h increased travel times by around 10 percent and reduced fuel use by about 15 percent.

An earlier report studied the combined impacts of changes in mean speeds to road safety risk, travel times and fuel use for heavy vehicles. It concluded that the ‘optimum’ speed for heavy vehicles, taking these three factors into account, would be around 80km/h (Max Cameron, 2012).

Are you still going to change speed limits even if the public don’t agree with it?

We’re working toward a future where no-one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We don’t accept that serious crashes are just another part of road travel, nor that the loss of human life on our roads is a ‘toll’ we should pay as the price of being able to get around.

Too many of our whanau, friends and workmates are being killed or seriously injured on our roads and we know that speed is a key factor that determines if you or someone you love, lives or dies in a crash.

Our research shows that the people who respond to consultation only represent about 15% of the public, and that there is a significant silent majority that want us to improve road safety and save lives – they are just not always the ones quoted in the media.

Our consultation on proposed speed limit changes is not a vote. That’s why we focus on the evidence behind the proposed changes and ask if there is any other information that should inform our final decision, instead of asking if people like it or not.

New Zealanders have accepted changes in the past - like wearing seatbelts and not smoking in some places – because we know it will make a difference and we know it is the right thing to do. It’s time to do it again.

Is there information around the standards of vehicles, fatigue, inattention, experience and age, training?

Improving safety on New Zealand roads is a priority for Waka Kotahi. We’re working with the NZ Police, Ministry of Transport, local government, WorkSafe and others to deliver Road to Zero, New Zealand’s road safety strategy for 2020–2030.

Road to Zero – NZ’s road safety strategy

Road to Zero sets a target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand’s roads, streets, cycleways and footpaths by 40 percent over the next 10 years. Reaching that target would mean reducing annual road deaths to 227 and serious injuries to 1,680 by 2030.

There are five key focus areas under Road to Zero:

  1. Infrastructure improvements and speed management.
  2. Vehicle safety.
  3. Work-related road safety.
  4. Road user choices.
  5. System management.

The risks associated with driving safely also highlights that the Waka Kotahi Education Programme aims to influence road user behaviour and encourage the correct behaviour on our roads. 

Driving safely

Is there an economic (including health) analysis that sits beside this proposal?

Speed management and its impact on aspects of economic and health are well documented to date.

Each death and serious injury has a devastating and wide-reaching impact.

It also has a social cost to New Zealand of $84 million per week, or nearly $4.7 billion a year. That includes things like loss of life, quality of life, medical costs, legal costs and damages to vehicles.

For Hawke’s Bay, in 2019 the social cost of the death and serious injuries from road accidents was estimated at $199m.

Detailed summary of the social cost(external link)

For SH51, the assessed death and serious injury savings is predicted to prevent one or more person from dying or sustaining a serious injury (from a road accident) with the proposed safe and appropriate speed limits in place*.

For SH5, it is predicted between one and two peoples’ lives will either be saved, or they will be prevented from sustaining a serious injury (from a road crash) with the proposed safe and appropriate speed limits in place*.

*The DSi savings per annum is estimated using a modified form of Nilsson’s Power Model.

How will you make things safer for school children and people who walk and bike?

Safer speeds will make the road safer for everyone.

Implementing more school speed zones will make traffic speeds safer around areas where children are before and after school.

Why don’t you invest more money in getting roads up to a higher standard?

Improving safety on New Zealand’s roads is a priority for us. Making sure speeds are safe is one of the quickest and most effective ways we can prevent deaths and serious injuries. That’s because our road network is long and covers some challenging terrain. It has many intersections and crashes are spread widely across the country.

Speed management is just one part of our investment programme to make New Zealand’s most dangerous roads safer. We’re also looking at how we can improve road safety by installing median and side barriers, widening shoulders and centre lines, intersection safety improvements and installing rumble strips.

What about driver frustration?

We understand the concern about driver frustration. There is a critical need to move freight, support industry and enable journeys that don’t take all day, and we acknowledge there is a balance to be found.

Any proposal to drop speed limits is being driven by one objective – reducing harm and saving lives.

This isn’t just about protecting drivers. The changes we are proposing are also about protecting passengers, the school kids crossing the road, the residents waiting for a bus, the motorcyclists without the same protection as someone in a car, and the many people who walk, run, cycle or scoot on our roads and footpaths.

What else are you doing about safety on roads in the Hawke’s Bay Region?

The last financial year we invested $16 million into maintenance and safety around the region in total. In the 2021/22 financial year, we expect to invest in excess of $14 million.

On SH51 we have implemented some safety improvements north of Clive in 2020, including the removal of a passing lane, wide centreline, creating a new cycle path and a right turn bay into Hohepa and another into Waitangi Regional Park.

Near Hastings, the speed review also supports the Waipatu Community Plan, Hasting District Council’s speed review proposal for the side roads in this area.

Other initiatives include working with police, increasing investment on road maintenance and safety, and working with Road Safe Coordinators on a roadside billboard campaign along SH5.

We’re applying the safe system approach to ensure infrastructure and speed work together to improve safety.

We know there are other changes people want to see. Lowering speeds doesn’t mean we can’t make other changes, but it is one of the best things we can do now to prevent deaths and serious injuries on these roads.

Isn’t it just bad drivers that are the problem?

Everyone makes mistakes, but simple mistakes shouldn’t cost lives.

Whether we’re late for work or dropping off the kids to school or sports or heading to the marae to see the whanau, everyday pressures can influence how we drive.

To make New Zealand’s roads safer, we’re working to improve every part of the transport system. That means safe drivers, safe roads, safe vehicles, and safe speeds.

Our research shows that travelling too fast for the conditions contributes to the cause of about a third of all fatal crashes. On the other hand, driving slowly is not a significant cause of our poor crash statistics.

The posted speed limit is a maximum not a target. Drivers are expected to show patience and adjust their speed depending on the conditions of the road and weather.

What is the timeline? When will changes be implemented?

We have formally consulted with Hawke’s Bay communities on our proposed speed limits and will consider any additional factors raised during consultation alongside our technical assessments to make our decision.

We are implementing changes on SH51 on October 29.

We expect to come back to the community on SH5 with a decision following consultation by the end of the year.

How will you know if this has been successful? What evidence do you have from similar programmes?

There are some great resources online:


SH5 questions

What is the volume of traffic on SH5 between Napier and Taupō, and what percentage are heavy vehicles?

Traffic volume was last measured in 2018, it varied between 3140 vehicles and 4539 vehicles per day.

Heavy commercial vehicles accounted for 16–20 percent of all traffic.

What will happen to the passing lanes on SH5?

The passing lanes will remain on SH5. The majority of these are on hilly terrain which will allow cars to still pass heavy vehicles while remaining within the speed limit. We are also looking at line marking improvements to some of the ends of the passing lanes to help provide and encourage a safer merging point.

Will the change to 100km/h going north to Taupō at Rangitaiki cause unsafe passing as built up traffic eases?

No. The Rangitaiki Plains are relatively straight and flat, so vehicles (both heavy vehicles and cars) can readily increase travel speed to the existing speed limit.

We are aware of drivers passing often in excess of the speed limit, where there is no need to pass other than the desire to be in front of the vehicle in front.

We remind drivers that before passing, always ask yourself, ‘Is it really necessary to pass?’ don’t pass just because you are feeling impatient with the vehicle in front. If you do need to pass, take extra care, and leave extra room when passing cyclists, horses or pedestrians as the wind gust from your vehicle could affect their balance.

What are the main causes of the accidents on SH5? And is there data available?

Between 2010 to 2019, there was a total of 250 injury crashes on SH5 Taupō to Napier, where 16 people were killed and 75 seriously injured. 68% of these crashes occurred within the middle section of the State Highway between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley.

Speed was recorded as being a factor in almost a quarter of total crashes.

Further investigation of the 10-year crash history shows 67% of all crashes involved loss of control and head on type crashes on a bend.

15% involved people losing control and head on type crashes on a straight.

Poor handling, poor observation, poor judgement, incorrect lanes or position and road factors were recorded as the highest contributing factors.

Even when speed doesn’t cause the crash, it’s what will most likely to determine whether anyone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed from that crash.

Between December 2019 and November 2020 there has been a significant increase in the number of people killed and seriously injured in crashes on SH5. In this time, crashes resulted in nine people losing their lives and 24 being serious injured. The majority of these crashes occurred in the middle section of road between Napier and Taupō.

The Crash Analysis System (CAS) open data portal(external link) has further information on individual crashes.

Speed in the context of New Zealand