SH56 Palmerston North to Ōpiki speed review

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Car driving over the bridge

Project introduction

Waka Kotahi wants everyone who uses SH56 between Palmerston North and Ōpiki to get where they are going safely. One way we can do this is by reviewing the current speed limits on the road.

  • Project type

    Speed review

Speed limit consultation

The engagement phase for the SH56 Palmerston North to Longburn Speed Review closed on Monday 11 July 2022. 

Between 14 November – 12 December 2022 we consulted on proposed changes to speed limits on some sections of highway, an intersection and near schools on SH56, as part of an Interim State Highway Speed Management Plan. We’re considering feedback from this consultation alongside existing information to finalise the interim plan, and will share an update in early 2023.

Interim State Highway Speed Management Plan

Taking into account feedback received during the engagement phase, we will consider proposing new speeds on other sections on this highway in the future.

What we are doing

The speed limits on SH56 between Awapuni, Palmerston North and Ōpiki are under review. Our priority is to make SH56 a safer stretch of road as soon as possible so that everyone living on and using the road can get where they are going safely.

But we need your help to make sure we’ve got it right. We know that local people know their roads best. We want to hear from you. What do you think about the current speed limits on SH56? Do the existing speed limits feel safe for the way people use the road? Do the existing speed limits affect your community? What do you think would be a safe speed limit?

We want you to share your views on speeds on this section of State Highway, including around places like local school bus routes, local walking tracks, marae, businesses, homes and workplaces.

Through the speed review process, we will work with the local community to gather and share information, and collaborate to ensure we understand your concerns.

Learn more about the SH56 Palmerston North to Ōpiki speed review [PDF, 1.1 MB]

What we know

In the past we’ve heard from the community that changes to this section of state highway are needed to make it feel safe and improve access for all road users.

The safety features of a road and the speed vehicles travel on it influence both the risk of a crash and whether it is survivable. Speed limits need to reflect the risk of the road.

The speed limit at present is 100km/h along the majority of the route, with 70km/h through Longburn and 80km/h through Ōpiki.

In the five years between 2017 and 2021, there were over 100 crashes on this route, involving five people losing their lives. Many others were injured. Making sure speeds are safe is one of the quickest and most effective ways we can prevent deaths and serious injuries. Speed limits need to reflect the risk of the road.

SH56 through Ōpiki sits on top of an old swamp and it is known to be a bumpy drive. There are also roadside hazards including power poles, large trees and deep roadside drainage ditches meaning this road has an increased risk of run-off road crashes.

This road is used for everything from commuting, to freight, to getting to school each day. There are two school communities along the route, one with a direct entrance off the state highway. Reducing the speed means other road users including pedestrians and cyclists will be kept safer.

This section of road has previously undergone infrastructure improvements including installation of guardrail and widened sections of road where possible. We spend around $150k per year on maintenance of the road and it receives regular surface levelling.

These safety improvements will reduce the likelihood of someone having a crash, however, we know that even the best drivers sometimes make mistakes and reducing the speed also reduces the risk of death or serious injury when a crash does happen.

There is a shared pathway from Palmerston North to Longburn used by walkers, runners and cyclists, and we are currently designing an extension to this to make more of the highway safer for pedestrians and cyclists as part of a wider regional cycle strategy. There is also rural/residential development on the urban edge of Palmerston North planned.

Why safe speeds are important

  • Even when speed doesn’t cause the crash, it’s what will be most likely to determine whether anyone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed from that crash.
  • As your speed increases you have less time to react.
  • When speeds are safe for the road, simple mistakes are less likely to end in tragedy.
  • Safer speeds are safer for everyone/all road users.
  • A small change in speed can make a big difference to the outcome of a crash.
  • The speeds on a road impact how safe other road users feel to walk, bike, or travel with their children on that same road.

Community engagement

Feedback closed on Monday 11 July 2022. We thank everyone who has provided us with their feedback. We are reviewing this feedback and within the coming months we will provide a summary of what we heard and the next steps.

See the feedback that people provided on our interactive map(external link)

Engagment summary report - June-July 2022 [PDF, 883 KB]