What are you doing about the state of this road?

Waka Kotahi spends around $150k per year on SH56 road maintenance to ensure that the road is in good repair and safe for everyone who uses it. It also receives regular surface levelling every 1-2 years.

This section of road has been made safer in recent years through infrastructure improvements. In 2018 we addressed the roadside hazard of deep open drains by installing approximately 6570 metres of guardrail. We have also widened sections of the road where possible.

However, there are some particular sections of SH56, due to their challenging characteristics, that make infrastructure mitigation options such as widening the road difficult and expensive.

What are the roadside hazards on this road?

Roadside hazards include power poles and large trees. There are also large open drains beside an elevated carriageway, where we are unable to install guardrail. These hazards mean there is an increased risk of run-off road crash.

Why review speed limits?

Most crashes are caused by several factors. However, even when it is not the primary cause of the crash, speed is the factor most likely to determine whether anyone is killed, injured or walks away unharmed. Our priority is to make high risk roads like SH56 safer as soon as possible so that everyone living on and using them can get where they are going safely.

Some of the local rural roads adjacent to SH56 are also being reviewed and some have already had safer speed limits set, such as those in the Horowhenua area which are now all set at 80km/h.

Are speeds changing?

Between 14 November – 12 December 2022 we will be consulting on some segments of this corridor as part of an 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 happens next in a speed review?

After an initial technical assessment and community input, we use this information to decide whether a speed review is progressed. To progress a speed change further, a formal proposal needs to be put to the community for feedback – this is called consultation. During consultation, specific proposed speeds are shared. Following formal consultation, a final decision is made and published before the new speed limits are implemented.

What is a technical assessment?

A technical assessment of the road is carried out before we talk to the community and key stakeholders. This is how we find out about crash history, average vehicle speeds, volume of vehicles and development of surrounding areas. This helps to determine what the safe and appropriate speeds are.

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

A major shift is needed on many fronts to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads, from speed to driver education to road maintence and improvements to safer vehicles.
It’s not a matter of choosing one solution over another. We need to take action in all these areas. 

Waka Kotahi also spends $20 million annually on road maintenance in the Manawatū-Whanganui region. This includes pothole repair, shoulder restoration, lifting road slumps and replacing sections of highway that are in poor condition.

Up and down the country we are looking at how we can improve road safety by installing median and side barriers, widening shoulders and centre lines and intersection safety improvements.

Read more about these safety solutions [PDF, 2.8 MB]

Why bother with these changes when it’s bad drivers who 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 whānau, 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.

Driver education and training

We also deliver a number of driver training and education programmes such as DRIVE and BikeReady and we work with the likes of Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD), the Ashburton District Road Safety Co-ordinating Committee and the Selwyn District Road Safety Sub-Committee to support community-based road safety initiatives.
These initiatives aim to influence road user behaviour and encourage the correct behaviours on our roads.

Find out more about our education initiatives and training

Vehicle safety

Find out more about what we’re doing to improve vehicle safety

Why is this project a priority when there are other projects we would rather see happen?

This is a step towards Vision Zero for New Zealand, an internationally proven vision where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes. This means that no death or serious injury while travelling on our roads is acceptable, and that we need to build a road system that protects everyone from road trauma.

Our commitment to Road to Zero addresses the safety of the whole network with a range of strategies using a ‘Safe System’ approach. Where we can and where it is the right solution, we will review speeds, improve physical infrastructure or build new infrastructure and keep the existing network well maintained.

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, or 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 whānau, 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.

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.

How we’re keeping children safe

We can ensure road users feel safe to choose more active transport by creating separated walking and cycling facilities or safe shared-use pathways such as the one on SH56 between Palmerston North and Longburn, which we are planning to extend. Crossing points are also planned to be within Longburn and near the intersection with Rangiotu Road.

We also deliver a number of driver training and education programmes such as BikeReady and we work with the likes of Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD) and Northland Road Safety to support community-based road safety initiatives.

Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD)(external link)

Northland Road Safety(external link)

These initiatives aim to influence road user behaviour and encourage the correct behaviours on our roads.

Our education initiatives and training

What are the crash statistics of the roads you are reviewing?

Corridor Number of deaths and serious injuries (between 2010-2019) Deaths Serious injuries
Intersection with SH57 to south of Ōpiki 14 0 14
Short section through Ōpiki 2 1 1
Existing school in Ōpiki 2 1 1
North of Ōpiki to south of Rangiotu Rd intersection 6 1 5
South of Rangiotu Rd intersection to south of Longburn 18 5 13
Short section through Longburn 2 0 2
Longburn to Mangoane Stream walkway south of Palmerston North 8 3 5
Total 52 11 41

What are the averages speeds along this state highway?

Location on SH56 Current speed limits Average speeds
Intersection with SH57 to south of Ōpiki 100km/h 96km/h
Short section through Ōpiki 80km/h 82km/h
North of Ōpiki to south of Rangiotu Rd intersection 100km/h 88km/h
South of Rangiotu Rd intersection to south of Longburn 100km/h 94km/h
Short section through Longburn 70km/h 72km/h
Longburn to Mangoane Stream walkway south of Palmerston North 100km/h 85km/h